Banner: Explore the World of Darkness @

Friday, May 30, 2014

Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer Experiences

At the end of July 2013, I was inspired to create Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer project after learning about the Hero Initiative's The Walking Dead 100 Project. As we come closer to the 1 year mark, we have been able to raise over $600 for the American Caner Society.

Originally, I wanted to work primarily with local artists to keep the costs low. This idea didn't work very well, but fortunately I have been able to utilize the USPS flat rate system to keep shipping expenses reasonable. The only large shipping cost I have incurred for shipping blank covers to an artist was in October 2013 when I sent several covers to an artist in Indonesia. Unfortunately, I haven't received those covers back yet and haven't heard from that specific artist since March. There are a few other artists who I've been waiting on their covers to be returned for several months.

The good news is that there have been a multitude of artists who have stepped-up to the commitment they agreed to, and we have been blessed by their donations. I would like to take this moment to publicly thank each of the wonderful artists who have helped us to date:

You can view the covers each of these fine artists have donated on the Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer Facebook page. I welcome you to like us and all of the artists on Facebook and urge you to help spread the word about our cause.

Another big help came from my LCS, Tony's Kingdom of Comics. At first, Tony sold me the blank covers at a great discount. Soon, he simply donated the covers for the cause. I couldn't have continued this project as far as it has gone without his help.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street

Title: Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street

ISBN: 9781401220846
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2009
Artist: Darick Robertson
Writer: Warren Ellis
Collects: Transmetropolitan #1-6

Rating: 4/5

“Up a goddamn mountain: So that ignorant, thick-lipped evil whorehopping editor phones me up and says, ‘Does the word contract mean anything to you, Jerusalem?’”

The first page gives you a pretty clear indication of what sort of story is about to follow. It’s going to be about writing. It’s going to be about a man who went up a mountain to get away from writing. It’s going to be a little, or a lot, crazy. And that’s only the text: check out the art, provided by master Darick Robertson. Just that first page. Spider’s wild hair, wilder tattoos, the disarray of his living space (there is a stack of cans, presumably beer, ascending to somewhere off-panel in the right corner), and of course the nudity. Judging by the bottle clutched in the hand not holding the phone, Spider isn’t just naked in a filthy mountain cabin, he’s also been drinking.

Yeah. The first page. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, friends.

“Back on the Street” is short. It follows Spider Jerusalem down off the mountain he has retreated to, back into the City, which might be New York. Nobody seems quite sure. When he arrives, owing two books to the Whorehopper, he has no journalist’s insurance, nowhere to live and no money. So the first thing he does is assault the office of The Word in search of old comrade Mitchell Royce. Royce is now city editor. He gives Spider a columnist gig with provided living space and amenities. Of course, when Spider arrives there, it’s a dump and his Maker is on machine-drugs. The shower manages to burn off all of his hair from head to toe. (Now he looks like the guy on the cover.) His first story leads him to an acquaintance, Fred Christ, who has become a Transient. (An alien colony offered its genetics to gene-modifier cliques who have now become part-alien. It was their most exportable asset. These neither-human-nor-alien people are the Transients.) Fred has organized a secession of his poverty-stricken district to the alien colony without a whole lot of intent or intelligence. Spider warns him, “They’ll come in and stamp on your bones, Fred.” He ends up being right: a riot breaks out in Angels 8, the Transient sector. It was set up and paid for by non-Transient lawyers who Spider spied on his first trip in to interview Fred. By the time he makes it there, the police are raining down hell on the disorganized citizens. Spider makes it to the top of a strip-bar and calls Royce, offering to write the column he owes right then and there. Royce sells the rights to it to stream all over the city (without Spider’s knowledge). The column is straight-forward and brutal like the violence going on below. When the readers see it streamed over every channel, their public outcry forces the police to pull out before destroying the sector. Spider wins. Later, he’s attacked by police and beaten, but the closing panel is a bloodied, swollen-faced Spider yelling, “I’m here to stay! Shoot me and I’ll spit your goddamn bullets back in your face! I’m Spider Jerusalem and fuck all of you! Ha!”

To an initial reader, volume one might seem like a prologue. Introduce you to Spider and his ways through a nice short story about his first column back in the city. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers in these posts (try to play along if at all possible), but I’ll advise the new readers first and foremost: this isn’t a prologue. This is chapter one. This stuff? It’s important, so pay close attention. I just won’t tell you why. We can talk about that in the post for the last volume, right?

The most recognizable part of Transmetropolitan is of course Spider Jerusalem (the man, the legend). He has a way of talking that seduces a certain audience instantaneously. Mostly this audience will also be enamored with Hunter S. Thompson, who I don’t hesitate to say provided some inspiration for Mr. Jerusalem. (There is a panel in a later volume where there are some books on Spider’s table and one of them is by Thompson, so that isn’t simply weird conjecture.) Much like Thompson, Spider has a multi-faceted personality. It’s not just bad craziness, though that is part of the package. He is a man who loves the world so hard that it makes him hate. He’s the kind of guy who might put out a cigarette in someone’s eye, but he’ll also try like hell to save the lives (and eyes) of a hundred other people when they’re being victimized. That, above the drug-addicted lunatic hilarity, is what makes me come back for more. That’s the reason I’ve read this series once a year since I laid my hands on it, when I need to feel good or like there might be hope somewhere in the world. Spider is deeply complex and twisty in a way that perfectly contrasts the more over-the-top aspects of his persona: because that’s part of the game.

Which Spider is the real Spider—the one who, when he must return to the city and his public, is inherently depressed? The one who cascades into The Word’s office with a smoke grenade and a few well placed elbows? The one who Royce says turned in a column that said “fuck” eight thousand times? The one who slumps into a chair and admits the reason that he left was that he couldn’t get at the truth anymore? I’d like to keep that question in mind throughout our discussions. It might all be real; every serious moment and every wild moment equally. Or it might be a coping mechanism. Or it might just be the drug intake. You tell me.

One other thing any reader is bound to notice immediately is the world-building. Transmetropolitan has perhaps the most effortless and beautiful world-building I’ve seen in a comic. It’s balanced between the art and the text with hints scattered throughout the entire story about the state of the world, the City, the technology, and just about everything else. In the mountains, the tech is low. Spider has a curly-cord phone and not much else from the looks of things. He makes a comment about changing the channel on the TV in the bar. It has the initial appearance of being in our own time. The moment he arrives at the toll booth into the city, though, things begin to change. Various devices boot up, mostly news-related and talking about things like a secession movement on Mars. The toll-boy has a metal implant on his neck and says there’s no “navigation software.” Inside, the City is a wall of color, smells, noise, advertisements and people. Pages sixteen and seventeen give us a rundown of how diverse and strange the City populous is. Clearly this is not our world. It can’t be much far removed, thanks to the similar technologies and things like a “print district” where publishing still operates in roughly the normal pattern we’re used to, but all the same the City is a stranger to us. The home technology involves Makers, which can recombine matter from a base-block (for the rich) or trash (for the poor) to create food, clothes, etc. Then there’s the Transient movement and the mutated cigarette-smoking cat. The police gear and the cars are still our-kind-of-tech, though.

Without having to explicitly tell us, Ellis puts us in a narrative space-time continuum. It’s not too far in the future, but it’s far enough that the reader feels alien to the City and all of the developments humanity has made. Gene manipulation, Makers, holographic ads everywhere, sexual and cultural liberation, eating vat-grown people... Spider’s “laptop,” on the other hand, still has a typewriter style keyset. It’s a weird world.

Story-wise, “Back on the Street” is relatively simple. Spider is trying to find a way to make money to write the two books he owes while hooking himself back up to the City’s mad energy. That he happens upon Fred Christ’s picture on the television is coincidence but the ugly situation in Angels 8 allows for the more serious side of Spider’s personality to come into play. “The cops have their excuse. There won’t be a Transient left alive by sundown. I’m going to Angels 8. No, I do not have the faintest idea why, or what I’m going to do when I get there. The point is: I have to be there.” This is an important clue toward Spider’s attitude toward journalism, along with what he tells the dancers: “I can’t control anything with this typewriter. All this is, is a gun… It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need. Aim it right and you can blow a kneecap off the world.”

I’d like to believe that, too.

Much of the fantastic world-building is owed to Darick Robertson’s absolutely mindblowing art. I’m not shy about it; I love the art in Transmetropolitan. Every single inch of space contains some detail, some hidden secret. You can spend five minutes on every page studying the text in the backgrounds. The art makes the City real to us in a way the text alone couldn’t possible manage. It’s hard to pick just one thing to praise about the illustrations for Transmet but I’ll stick for now to the facial expressions, especially Spider’s. On pages 4-5 Spider visibly goes through a whole range of emotions from confusion to surprise to rage to sadness. The text doesn’t have to tell us any of that. Robertson’s attention to the creases and wrinkles of Spider’s face and the set of his mouth give us everything we need to know. (I actually miss Spider’s magnificent mane from the first issue sometimes; Robertson seemed to have so much fun drawing it.)

Not to mention the detail in Spider’s tattoos that show up in nearly every panel he’s in. His teeth are crooked, too. Robertson pays a huge amount of attention to the small things which help make the characters in Transmetropolitan real. In the final panel, Spider’s wounds and swollen face are ugly and believable. Without the art, there would be something missing from Transmetropolitan. It tells half of the story. Not all comics are like that, true, but this one is. It’s all in the details.

Pages 22-23 get my vote for favorite pages in volume one. It was a tie with the Cityscape panels where we start seeing the citizenry, but the sight of Spider getting the infamous glasses from the hopped-up Maker in nearly naked glory still makes me grin. (Plus, the crooked bottom teeth and slight gut make him look that much more real.) What’s your favorite scene?

There’s an amusing tiny plot hole in “Back on the Street.” Spider dumps his car in traffic during his return to the city and walks off over the tops of other people’s vehicles... But when he’s ready to go to the Transient riot in Angels 8, the same car is magically back. I wonder if the City kindly returns dumped cars? It seems much more likely that they impound them, but hey. You never know.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ultimate X-Men Vol 3: World Tour

Title: Ultimate X-Men Vol 3: World Tour

ISBN: 0785109617
Price: $17.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2002
Artist: Adam Kubert, Chris Bachalo, Esad Ribic
Writer: Mark Millar, Chuck Austen
Collects: Ultimate X-Men #13-18

Rating: 2/5

Before the X-Men leave on a globetrotting mission to spread their message of human/mutant fellowship, Charles Xavier feels the need to pontificate on the subject, at length, in writing. Yawn.

Then the team is off to London to spread their message in person and, if need be, break a few heads. That becomes necessary more quickly than expected when the psycho son of Xavier and mutant researcher Dr. Moira McTaggert breaks free of captivity in Scotland and begins inhabiting the bodies of passersby or, as the mood strikes, killing them.

Turns out Xavier hasn't been a very good father.

Meanwhile, Cyclops and Marvel Girl get some squeeze time in St. Petersburg as they seek out the missing Colossus, who has returned home for a bit of "normality" in his life. Ha! Doesn't he realize a submarine is lying at the bottom of the ocean in need of his assistance??

Xavier decides to disband the X-Men. And Gambit makes a solo appearance.

World Tour is an action-packed chapter in the Ultimate X-Men series, but it continues to fall short of its potential. The spark that has made other books in the Ultimate line so exciting has yet to burst into flame.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

World of Darkness (Classic)

System: World of Darkness (Classic)

Type: Tabletop

Publisher: White Wolf/Onyx Path

Overall rating (1-10): 8

In 1991, Mark Rein-Hagen created the first in what was to become a series of games based in a single world. This was the inception of Vampire: The Masquerade. From there came Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, Wraith: The Oblivion and Changeling: The Dreaming. These became the core for the World of Darkness setting. Some ancillary games followed to increase the battery of concepts a persona could play, and a storyteller could run. These games were Kindred of the East, Mummy: The Resurrection, Hunter: The Reckoning, Demon: The Fallen as well as a selection of games setting in various times in history ranging from the Dark Ages to World War 1.

Character creation is a fairly simple point-buy method for dots in your chosen attribute/ability/power. Each dot represents a d10 that you use in order to determine the outcome of your actions. For example, a basic hand-to-hand attack would be a roll of your Dexterity attribute  plus your Brawl talent with a difficulty determined by the storyteller. For this example, let's say your Dexterity = 3 dots and your Brawl = 2 dots. You roll 5d10 and everything that matches or exceeds the set difficulty is a success.

In the World of Darkness games, you don't level-up as you do in games like Dungeons & Dragons, you actually spend the experience points you receive to improve your character. This helps players to develop their characters with a more personal touch.

If you want your character equipped with weapons, the selection available in the core books is extremely limited. In 1997, White Wolf published World of Darkness: Combat. This book not only included an extensive list of weapons and ammunition, but also gave optional rules to customize combat. These optional rules made combat more difficult, but I recommend you look for yourself. This book does include rules for specialized combat system for a few of the games, which also make the book worth getting and keeping. I'll have more information on that when I write my review for the actual book.

Each subsequent year of publication had a different theme. This brought about new sets of character types, but more importantly it dictated the focus of all the sourcebooks published that year. For instance, Vampire and Werewolf produced sourcebooks in the Year of the Lotus cycle, concerning a variety of Asian themed creatures and expansions.

YearName of the yearTheme
1996Year of the HunterGroups of Mortals trying to take back the night.
1997Year of the AllyMortal and semi-mortal allies to the supernatural beings.
1998Year of the LotusSupernatural beings from eastern Asia.
1999Year of the ReckoningStart of Hunter: The Reckoning game line. Revised Edition published.
2000Year of RevelationsSecrets of the ancient period. (Related to Exalted Game line.)
2001Year of the ScarabRestart of Mummy as Mummy: The Resurrection game.
2002Year of the DamnedStart of Demon: The Fallen as game.
2004Time of JudgmentEnd of the game line.

In late 2003, White Wolf Publishing announced it would stop publishing new books for the line, bringing the published history of the setting to an end with a series called The Time of Judgment. This event is described from different supernatural perspectives in four sourcebooks: Gehenna (for Vampire: The Masquerade); Apocalypse (for Werewolf: The Apocalypse); Ascension (for Mage: The Ascension); and Time of Judgement (covering the rest of White Wolf's less-established product lines: Demon: The Fallen, Changeling: The Dreaming, Kindred of the East, Mummy: The Resurrection and Hunter: the Reckoning).

The publishers stated that in doing so, they followed up on a promise that has existed in the World of Darkness since the first edition of Vampire, with the concept of Gehenna, and in Werewolf, with the Apocalypse, as well as some elements of some of the published material that pertain to 'end of the world' themes in other games.

In 2011 a 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade was released, also called V20, and a series of further books for the cWoD were announced. Those books include conversion rules between some cWoD games and their nWoD counterparts, as well as material that was planned but not published before the End of the cWoD, as well as additional material for V20 and a 20th Anniversary book based on Werewolf: The Apocalypse.

For V20, as well as the V20 Companion and the 20th Anniversary Werewolf: The Apocalypse White Wolf Publishing used an Open Development approach, where readers and gamers could give feedback to the authors. At GenCon 2012 it was announced that Onyx Path Publishing is a new company by White Wolf Creative Director Richard Thomas, that will produce material to the new and classic World of Darkness as licensee. In November 2012 it was announced by Onyx Path Publishing that due to the resounding success of the W20 Kickstarter, which reached over 400% of its target funds goal, a 20th Anniversary Mage: The Ascension would be launched for 2013.

I've been playing and collecting the World of Darkness book since around 1994. Other than the older edition core books and others that have been revised through the editions, I nearly have a complete collection. I look forward to posting reviews of each book in my collection, and I hope you enjoy reading them.


The World of Darkness is an easy system to learn. The more complicated parts are when you deal with the individual powers that each game brings to the table. (i.e. Vampires have disciplines. Werewolves have gifts. Etc.)

There are a couple of holes in the system that can be easily fixed by a competent storyteller. Because the system has been around for over 20 years, there are several books that compile a complete collection. You can easily play a simple game with just a core book, but the various sourcebooks add to the flavor and sunniness of each setting. You don't need every book to create a good game.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cherry City Comic Con - My Experiences

When it was originally announced that Salem was going to be holding its very own comic con, I was incredibly excited. I bought my tickets as soon as I could, and threw my support in anywhere I could. Even though there was a bit of a hiccup before the con opened, I was not disappointed.

As most of my regular readers already know, while I like taking pictures, when I take pictures of people, they turn-out horribly. Needless to say, I don't have any good vendor, artist or cosplay pictures. Sorry for that.

The first ever Cherry City Comic Con was billed as family friendly, and I feel it lived-up to that. It was a good atmosphere and I could feel positive energy throughout the entire venue. A larger space than the first Rose City Comic Con, and for that I am thankful.

Here's my list of the Pro's and Con's for this con:


  • Large space with plenty of room to move around. This also helps keep the venue from becoming stuffy.

  • So many people showed-up. This tells me that Salem is very welcoming to having events of this nature. This means look forward to 2015 and beyond!

  • Parking was only $4!

  • MBC Gaming (being transitioned to Haven Gaming) brought some of their large game tables that they use in their store to provide space for game demo's.

  • There were several areas where people could sit, and I was incredibly grateful for that. Most of the other con's I've been to didn't have much (if any) places to sit.

  • Free wifi helped me be able to promote my artist and vendor friends as well as the con itself. I don't know how many times I posted #cherrycitycomiccon and either Twitter or Facebook.

  • As mentioned above, the positive energy flowed all over. I'm happy to have been a part of this comic con, and I look forward to what comes. I'm thinking that next time around I would work to purchase a table in order to promote Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer.

  • Plenty of great costumes!


  • With the space available, there could have been more vendor/artist spaces. This may have been due to the contract agreement and not something the coordinator Mark could change.

  • The Coin Jam, Salem's first arcade bar, was announced as a sponsor early on and that they were going to bring in some arcade games. It's my understanding that they decided to pull their support at the last minute.

  • Jesse Lagers, a cosplayer from the Portland area, was originally announced to be attending. Not sure what happened, but I didn't see him or his booth.

  • The single area for panels was open-air and it was occasionally disrupted by loud noises from the con floor. There was someone who had a great Animal from the Muppets costume, and had a snare drum attached at the hip. When they beat the drum, it resonated all over the venue.

I did put an All Call out to others who attended Chery City to share their thoughts and experiences and I would post them here on my blog. I hope people will take me up on that offer because I believe that constructive feedback will help everyone know what changes to make for future events.

All-in-all, I think the first every Cherry City Comic Con was great! Sure, there's room for improvement... but the same can be said for just about everything for the first time. When was the last time you "knocked it out of the park" the first time you tried something? :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

X-Men: Evolution Vol. 1

Title: X-Men: Evolution Vol. 1

ISBN: 0785109404
Price: $8.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2003
Artist: Udon, Long Vo, Charles Park, Saka
Writer: Devin Grayson
Collects: X-Men: Evolution #1-4

Rating: 2/5

The X-Men have had so many incarnations and character shifts over the years that they would make soap opera writers jealous. It can be confusing beyond belief to try to disentangle as a newbie, as any can tell you, especially all those intrigued viewers of the recent movies who now want to get in on the story. My friends, I wish you luck.

One of the most fun by far, however, is the recent cartoon X-Men: Evolution, speculating on the teenhood of many of our favorite X-Men under the care of Professor Xavier. The cartoon has gained a large audience of both kids and adults alike — deservedly so, given its smart dialog, streamlined animation, and true to character storylines and issues. It seems ridiculous that their teen years weren’t explored before — when were any of us not an outcast of some kind in high school? This graphic novel takes one step further back from the cartoon and shows us the origin of the show’s arrangements, tracing Xavier’s discovery of all of the mutants we’ve come to know and love on the show. The artwork, though certainly in the style of the cartoon, has more detail and shading and works well. The story, though

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Ultimates 2 Vol. 2: Grand Theft America

Title: The Ultimates 2 Vol. 2: Grand Theft America

ISBN: 9780785117902
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2010
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Writer: Mark Millar
Collects: The Ultimates 2 #7-13

Rating: 2.5/5

Well, this book finishes up the story where Gods and Monsters left off and to be honest with you, I could use a bit of a break from The Ultimates so it will be a while before I check out The Ultimates 3.  So does this book do justice to the series?  In my humble opinion, no.  I’ve mentioned before that the normal pace for The Ultimates books tends to be a bit slow, but this book isn’t slow at all.  In fact it moves so fast at times it seems frantic, like we’ve missed a panel or two.

Basically the bottom falls out on The Ultimates in this book, which could have worked out very nicely, but I feel that Marvel took the wrong path on this one.  I see what they were doing, I get the fact that Marvel likes to tie issues in the real world into their stories:  Mutant/Super-hero registration, segregation, the Legacy virus… I get it.  I normally enjoy the way Marvel intertwines issues between the real world and the created one, but sometimes it gets in the way.  In fact, I think this could have been a much better book had they just removed the politics and just told the story.  It felt very contrived and rushed the way it is.

There was some great action in this book, so if you pick it up just for that reason then you’ll probably enjoy the tale, but if you are looking for story that feels honest you may be left a bit disappointed like I was.

Friday, May 2, 2014

TFAW Signing Event: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Wednesday, April 30, 2014- Thing From Another World's Portland store hosted the very talented Kelly Sue DeConnick for the release of her latest trade paperback: Pretty Deadly Vol. 1.

I picked-up a copy of Pretty Deadly and Ghost trade paperback's that Kelly Sue worked on.

I loved how she signed my copy of Ghost.

I was fortunate enough to be able to get-in some chat time and she told me that issue #4 of the current Ghost series will be her last on the title, but that it was one of her favorite that she's written. I know many of my readers are probably more familiar with her through her writing on Captain Marvel or Avengers Assemble, but my familiarity started with her work on Ghost starting in 2012, and this news is disappointing to me.

Fortunately, she assured me that the person who will be taking over the title after she moves away from it will be and excellent fit. I'll be looking forward to her last issue of Ghost and I can't wait to dig in to Pretty Deadly.

On a side note, most of my regular readers, as well as those who know me, know that I have a weakness for those Funko Pop Vinyl figures. I have several in my collection, and TFAW has several available... many of which I had never seen. If my willpower were weaker, I would have left the event with a greatly depleted bank account. Fortunately I kept my my purchases down to 2 figures my collection couldn't live without: Jay & Silent Bob!

For your amusement, here's a group that I doubt anyone would see combined in a comic crossover:

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I

 Title: Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I ISBN: 0919359094 Price: $ Publisher/Year: Aardvark-Vanheim, 1987 Artist: Gerhard Writer: ...