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Saturday, December 31, 2016

#CBC4C 2016 and beyond!

So, 2016 had a lot of bumps along the way to the end. In the end, we made it through. We're now at just over $5600 total donations to the American Cancer Society since we began, and I consider that a big WIN!

Some of the difficulties we faced over the past year have made a significant impact on our ability to keep going at the pace I would prefer. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to attend NW Comic Fest and EUCON where we had been provided tables. This cut-down our local visibility and ability to generate some additional resources and donations. Because of this, I haven't been able to provide the level of service I would prefer.

With the changes in eBay donation system, it has become bothersome to work with them; but I'm unable to see an alternative that would provide as much visibility as eBay does. We are looking to finding an alternative forum for auctions if eBay does not start making the necessary changes that they lost due to the split with PayPal. Before 2016, we were able to manually pay the donations due to the American Cancer Society once all the auctions had been paid for. Now, we have to wait 21 days after the auctions have closed before the money is removed from our PayPal account and the donations are made. This also creates a massive amount of emails that are unnecessary, where before there was a single email with the total donation amount on it.

2016 had a huge impact on everyone's lives, and that's why I feel that 2017 is going to be better!

I'm not sure if I will be attending Wizard World Portland this year due to the timing, finances and all the issues that have come out about the Wizard World promotion. I know that CBC4C contributing artists Randy Emberlin, Keith Tucker and Jason Metcalf are all scheduled to attend, and I would love to be there to touch base with them and support them. Going in 2016 was kind of a whim decision. If I go, it will probably be the same this year.

We're going to have a new event beginning in 2017 called Northwest Comic Con. It'll be in Tillamook, Oregon and I love going to the coast! I've already connected with the promoter and have secured media passes. The list of artists attending is growing, and I look forward to seeing how this ends up.

I continue to be on-the-fence about going back to Emerald City Comic Con this year. While it is a wonderful event, it just seems too big for my tastes. I remember my first ECCC back in 2006 when it was in an exhibition hall at Qwest Field. This was my first time meeting people like James O'Barr and Adam Hughes. Such a wonderful experience. The last few years that I've attended were fun, but tiring and dreadfully packed with too many people. Also, I've found that I don't have time to go to any of the panels that I used to enjoy.

Much like Wizard World, going to ECCC was a whim choice, and may be again this year. The best part is that I have lodging available just up in Bothel, Washington. The bad part is that I don't look forward to the possibility of driving in Seattle, We'll see what happens.

Rose City Comic Con is a must go event! I have been able to attend every year, and I enjoy it every time. The past 2 years, I have been able to connect with some wonderful artists such as Chrissie Zullo, Keith Tucker, Ron Randall, Jeff Parker and Gary Martin. Last year, comic book grading service CBCS also donated 10 of their services to us that really bumped our donations up last year.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will be attending RCCC in 2017.

While I was unable to attend EUCON in 2016, I'm looking forward to the possibility for 2017. Their first year was electric, and I heard that the same can be send for year 2.

I'm still trying to determine when in 2017 we will be holding the auctions. 2016 started rough with several obstacles in our path so we weren't able to begin until later. I'm hoping for at least 4 good, solid series of auctions in 2017. I defiantly want to hit the first weekend in May to begin a series, to coincide with Free Comic Book Day festivities. Obviously there will be our final series for the year in December. When I make the final decisions, I will make sure to post it on our FB page.

I was hoping to provide some great surprise news before posting this, but I am still waiting on confirmations from a few new artists. I can say that at the beginning of the new year, I will be reaching out to artists who have overdue covers, and making an all-call for new artists to join our ranks and wear the below badge proudly:

To close, just let me say that 2016 went well for CBC4C, and I hope we can do just as well... or even better... in 2017.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us this far, and continue to support our efforts. Without you, this would not be possible.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

PGX Comics - My Recent Experience

At the end of February or the beginning of March 2016, I learned that PGX was offering a special Stan Lee signing and grading. Since I don't get the chance to actually go to events where Stan Lee is scheduled to be, and I hate standing in lines for as long as those lines usually take, I thought I would jump at this opportunity... especially since the news broke that he was not going to be doing events for much longer.

So I picked my comic book to have signed by Stan, which happens to be the comic that brought me into reading and collecting in the first place: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #50.

I know that Stan Lee didn't really have anything to do with the writing, art or editing of this issue or series, but it was Marvel and at that time of course carried his name on the title page. As my loyal readers already know, it was last year at Rose City Comic Con that I had this same issue signed by writer Larry Hama.

With the deadline approaching, I made sure I had my paperwork completed correctly so that they would also certify my Larry Hama signature, and sent it off to make the deadline.

At this point, please allow me to explain something clearly so that you understand the rest of this post. PGX has a FIRM deadline posted to get your submissions for the Stan Lee signing. The definition of the word DEADLINE is the latest time or date by which something should be completed. This would suggest that there was already a scheduled date that PGX had lined-up for their signing event.

On March 25, I emailed PGX to see when the signing was going to take place so that I would have a reasonable expectation when I should receive my precious copy of G.I. Joe #50. In April I tried contacting them through their website and was informed that there had not yet been a firm date scheduled for the signing. Later, I was informed that it wouldn't be until September that they would actually be able to have Stan Lee sign. I figured that since PGX is located in Oregon, they would be taking advantage of his visit to Rose City Comic Con. I decided to wait.

After RCCC had passed, I emailed again asking when I could expect my book back. I emailed again on October 28 and November 18, each time asking for some response via email so I would have something documented. In the November 18th email, I even asked if I would be receiving a discount considering they've had my book since March. (Keep that statement in mind for later.) I received 2 phone calls during this time from one of their representatives; I believe his name was "Daniel" even though the person I have been emailing was "Aaron Sasson". "Daniel" explained that there have been several attempts to get the signing done, but that "the people around him want too much money" and that created a problem for them to be able to get anything signed. In the first conversation I had with "Daniel", he expressed that they were going to make a few attempts in October. In the call I received in November, he explained that they had a chance at another event, with about a 95% certainty that they would be able to get the signing because their witness was a "close, personal friend of Stan". He also said that I would be receiving a reduced fee because of all the problems. I decided to let this ride for one last time, but told him that if they failed to have it signed that I wanted my book back.

On December 8, I emailed again asking when I should expect to receive my book. On the 9th, I received a reply stating "We will be shipping your Stan Lee signed book out today or tomorrow. My apologies for the delay."

Later that day, I received a voicemail from PGX stating that there was a problem when they attempted to charge my credit card. I connected with my bank and made sure the charge would go through and let them know. As I am writing this part of my post, it is December 11, 2016 and they have not yet charged my credit card nor have they provided me with the shipping details.

When I completed the paperwork for this back in March, the total was going to run $171.50. When I received the email stating how much they were going to charge me, I was informed $161.50. With all the hassles I have been through over the better part of a year, they feel that my inconvenience is only worth $10?!?

The biggest reason I have used PGX in the past is because they had a more reliable turnaround time, were less expensive than CGC, and I kind of wanted to support a local company. When I used their services between 2004 - 2006, I was only let down because people weren't wanting to readily accept a PGX grading.

After my experiences with CBCS last year, I will make sure that I NEVER use PGX again, and I highly recommend that you never even consider using them either.

On December 13th, I received an email from PGX with the shipping information. It stated that they shipped via USPS Priority. Since they're just about 70 miles away from me, USPS should be able to deliver in 1 day.

December 14th: No activity on the tracking #. Simply states "Pre-Shipment Info Sent to USPS, USPS Awaiting Item".

December 15 - 18: Same as December 14th. No response from PGX when I asked them for information and scans.

December 19: I received an email stating that the shipping serrvice had changed and provided a new tracking # via FedEx.

December 20: I finally received my book back! Huge F-ing box! Way more than it needed to be. Last year, when I received comics back from CBCS, the box was the same size... but it also contained 10 graded comic books.

9.2 and "authenticated" with both Larry Hama and Stan Lee's autograph! The fact that I have had this specific issue for 30 years and it's in 9.2 condition... I feel pretty good about that part.

The takeaway from all this? Don't use PGX and if you want to get someones autograph, go get it yourself!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What If? Age of Ultron

Title: What If? Age of Ultron

ISBN: 9780785190547

Price: $16.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2014

Artist: Raffaele Ienco, Ramon Villalobos, Mico Suayan, Piotr Kowalski, Neil Edwards, Ming Doyle

Writer: Joe Keating

Collects: What If? Age of Ultron #1-5

Rating: 2.5/5

The What If? concept remains as sound as it ever was, but Marvel has really seemed to struggle to find a way to market it to contemporary readers. Their latest annual What If? experiment is a five-issue, weekly series that explores the Age of Ultron conflict from five different angles. But does one specific event comic need that many alternate takes? That's a question I'm still struggling with after reading issue #1.

This first issue from writer Joe Keatinge and artist Raffaele Ienco is very much a mixed bag. The premise is a little vague. Usually What If? books revolve around one specific, key event happening differently and causing a chain reaction. Here, Ultron goes bad immediately after activation, kills the Wasp, and ushers in an Age of Ultron completely different from the one we saw in Brian Bendis' series. But otherwise, Keatinge's script is solid. He creates a sweeping sense of desperation and futility as Hank Pym labors on in a world where all other life has been eliminated. The ending is harsh and depressing, but that's one of the appeals of the What If? line. There doesn't have to be a happy ending.

Unfortunately, the art doesn't do the script much justice. Ienco's figures are very stiff and lifeless, and the inks are too heavy. Granted, the art captures the look of Brandon Peterson's work on Age of Ultron pretty well, but I had similar problems with those issues as well.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey

ISBN: 9780785166092

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2015

Artist: Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli,  David Marquez

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Collects: Guardians of the Galaxy #11–13, All-New X-Men #22–24

Rating: 4.5/5

The story begins in the pages of All-New X-Men #22. There, X-23 and Kitty Pryde are helping younger versions of the original X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman, and Angel)—who had previously been brought through time to the present day to show the current Cyclops and his X-Men the error of their villainous ways—to cope with their time displacement. Both young Cyclops and Jean had previously been shown their futures, including Jean's deaths as the host of the world-destroying Phoenix Force and Cyclops' spiral into depression and rage over her death.

This obviously throws a monkey wrench into the teenage lovers' relationship, but before they can cope with it, a covert Shi'ar strike force attacks the X-Men and whisks Jean away. The Guardians show up soon after the kidnapping, in response to the alien force messing with Earth affairs.

Guardians of the Galaxy #11.NOW constitutes part two of "The Trial of Jean Grey," as the story jumps from one title to the next in true Marvel crossover fashion. Picking up after the events of the second trade, the issue reiterates the Guardians' rocky relationship with the Spartax Empire before diving into another meeting of the council of galactic empires (no relation to the Galactic Council). Gladiator, leader of the Shi'ar Empire announces his intentions to capture young Jean and bring her to trial for her future crimes against the universe as the Phoenix. The different rulers' mixed feelings sets a moralistic tone for the rest of the story arc, asking the question: "Is it right to punish someone for something they haven't done yet?"

The issue also marks the departure of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) from the story line, as he sends the Guardians a message from Earth thanking them for allowing him to be a part of the team. Thus, Brian Michael Bendis ties up what could have been a confusing loose end.

The Guardians are alarmed and move to action when an alien ship enters Earth's atmosphere, and from there their story ties into the X-Men's. They team up to track down Jean and her kidnappers, during which they meet up with the Starjammers—a group of space pirates led by Cyclops' long lost father. You can imagine the interaction between young Cylcops and his father, who had already reconnected with his son years before.

While the three teams are on their quest, Jean is made ready for her tribunal, but the tribunal is interrupted by King J'son of Spartax when he tries to reason with Gladiator about the trial's absurdity. The X-Men, Guardians, and Starjammers eventually make it to the Shi'ar throne world where Jean is being held, and a huge battle erupts between the heroes and the Shi'ar Royal Guards. Young Jean discovers and uses a new power—one never exhibited by the deceased Jean—to bring the battle to a stalemate. She ends up leaving with her friends after Cyclops threatens to bring the Earth's entire population of superpowered beings down on Gladiator and the Shi'ar if they ever come to Earth again. The teams part ways at the end of the story arc, with Cyclops joining his father and the Starjammers, and Kitty hooking up with Peter Quill for a long-distance relationship.

The biggest hurdle this story presented for me was making me care about an X-Men story. I'm not a huge X-Men fan; I've never read a single X-Men title, and I've never cared about any of the characters. I know the gist of the Dark Phoenix Saga, however—you kind of pick up on these things as a comic book geek—and I've watched every X-Men film Fox has produced, so I'm not completely unaware of these characters. Once again, though, Bendis successfully pulled me into a property I had very little interest in, albeit temporarily and for this story arc only.

I'll admit that I enjoyed this largely X-Men-centric story despite my reservations. Bendis continues to shine when it comes to characterization, even with a cast of twenty or more characters. (This story had a lot of unique characters.) Every major participant—including all of the X-Men, most of the Guardians (except Drax, really), one or two of the Starjammers, and one or two of the Shi'ar Royal Guards—had their moments in the spotlight.

As strong as Jean and Cyclops' in-your-face young romance was, it was Angela and Gamora's developing, quasi-romantic warrior's relationship that really took the cake for me. (Sorry, Peter and Kitty.) Drax suffered the most in this crossover, in my opinion, as his development took a back seat to that of the characters at the center of the story. He may have had one moment with X-23, but it wasn't enough for me to regard him as an integral member of the Guardians.

Stuart Immomen and company supply the art for All-New X-Men, which seamlessly complements Sarah Pichelli and company's Guardians of the Galaxy art. This gives the entire story a coherent, overarching visual style that doesn't impede the constant back-and-forth of switching from one title to the other. With the addition of Bendis' writing both titles and grandmastering the whole crossover, "The Trial of Jean Grey" makes for a fluent, stunning, and enjoyable read.

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: ...