Friday, November 16, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

San Diego Comic Fest - What I thought.

Thanks to Mark Evanier, I'm going to add this link to a video on the 1st San Diego Comic Fest which was held last weekend.  What you see in the video will give you a good feeling of what the convention was like and some of the folks who spent time there.

As I have said before, while my first 'convention' experience was a small one held in a high school in the Ocean Beach community of San Diego, about two months later I found myself at the El Cortez Hotel with hundreds of other fans for the 1975 SDCC.  In some ways those two very different experiences match the difference between what the current SDCC is to what was held at the Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center the past weekend. 

The utter size and overwhelming experience of SDCC is hard to imagine for anyone who has not gone to one.  I've been to dozens of cons around the country the past few decades but even the larger ones in NY, Philadelphia and Chicago could not match what you get when you enter the SDCC as it is now.  The sounds, sights, cos-players, famous actors and all the media crammed into that building for four-days is just way too much for me now.  I think my experience this year on Sunday was enough to prove that I am not able to deal with these events very well. I'm pretty sure that the one-day pass I already have for 2013 (Friday) will be even more tiring and may be the last time I go through the hassle and aggravation of even trying to get a ticket.

As Mark says in his post, Comic Fest was more about the feelings and nostalgia of those El Cortez days than a recreation of that era.  While those early SDCC's were smaller they were still all about the future of comics, film and entertainment.  Fans wanted to see the hot new talent, get the new titles and find out what the publishers were going to bring out in the coming year.  If there were panels on the Golden Age (and a number of the folks who created those books were still active at the time), more were about the current crop of creators or those trying to break in.

The contemporary SDCC continues that, with those panels that do deal with the older stuff becoming a smaller part of the overall picture.  While Comic Con has always been about more than comics, the modern event really is about the entertainment media beyond the four-color pages that fewer and fewer seem to care about.

For me Comic Fest was a chance to see some of the folks who made my early convention experiences so special.  It was the opportunity to hear others talk about what those events meant to them and how special they were.  While there was some sadness when people talked about those who were no longer with us, there were also a lot of laughs when those still here told stories of their lost friends.

Panels covered the anniversaries of BLADE RUNNER, ROBOCOP and STORM TROOPERS.  Creators talked about working on the 'underground' comix that had to be bought in headshops, adult stores and small bookstores in college communities.  People who had not seen each other in decades were reunited on stage or in the halls, some discovered things that had happened years before that they had never known about.  While some friendships were renewed, some old animosities were also brought out into the open.

Bottom line is I'm really glad that I went.  It was fun and I had some laughs, which is what you really want from any convention.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

WALKING DEAD - New Season & other stuff

Hope you have caught the first episode of WALKING DEAD this past weekend, or recorded it and already seen it.  I'm going to publish some Spoilers so if you haven't watched it you might want to skip this for a while.

In a fashion, the series is coming back around to where the comic series was a few years ago.  Months have passed since the previous episode, with Lori (Booo!!) very preggers and still whining about one thing or another.  The rest of Rick's group seems to be coming to grips with the situation, with even Carl showing that he can take down the undead in the same ruthless fashion as the rest.  His first scenes with him shooting a walker and then taking some cans of dog food are telling.  Carl has matured and obviously has gone beyond the "Carl, stay in the house" routine he found himself in previously.  This is the Carl that fans of the book have come to know, there are only some moments when he can be a kid with the situation that surrounds him.

In the book the discovery of the prison brought about a shift in the dynamics of the group.  As the series has already made some changes, it remains to be seen what characters (if any) that are introduced among the surviving prisoners will bond with Rick's group.  We only see some of the prisoners in the final scene of the first episode, so they have not been introduced.  Teasers for the second episode seem to indicate that things may take a ugly turn pretty quickly.

We also get to see Michonne (one of the best and favorite characters in the comic) demonstrating why she will probably be just as popular in the series.  She and Andrea are separated from the main group and it will be interesting to see how they finally join up.  As the "Governor" and the community of Woodbury have not been introduced yet, it may be that the pair meets up with that group first.  However it works out I'm psyched about this season.

This weekend I'm going to be heading down to San Diego for the first SD Comic Fest.  This new gathering was conceived and planned by some of the same folks to started the original San Diego Comic Con back in the early '70s.  The idea is that this will be a smaller gathering and similar in feel to those first few cons held at the El Cortez Hotel and other locations.  No flashy displays by the big companies, no major stars pushing their latest product, just fans and pros getting together to talk about comics and 'the old days'.  I hope to have some photos and some things to talk about regarding the show next week.

Ta ta for now!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Season for Doctor Who

Just a quick couple of things on the latest season of DOCTOR WHO on BBC America.

Everybody who follows the show already knows that the Doctor's companions, Amy & Rory will shortly be exiting the program.  A new companion will quickly be put in place and we'll have to give her a chance.

The first two episodes of the season were great, as you can't go wrong with a Dalek episode and dinosaurs on a spaceship are pretty cool.  On the other hand, I was rather disappointed with the third episode (shown this past Saturday), "A Town Called Mercy". 

There were some nice elements but it just seemed like they needed something to show The Doctor has been under some strain and to reinforce the notion that he needs a companion(s) to keep him in check.  Both David Tennant and Matt Smith have shown that given too much time alone the Doctor can forget the 'humanity' and humility that he needs.  Besides those moments the episode was nothing special and had that 'haven't we seen this before' feel.  You could almost have put Kirk, Spock & McCoy down in the middle of Mercy and had pretty much the same show.  For me, it was probably the weakest DW episode of the past couple of seasons.

As there are only a couple of episodes left with the Ponds, I have my fingers crossed that things improve.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: The Jakarta Plot

Despite the fact that the Joe Bob Briggs site hasn’t posted a new review for well over a year, I’m still finishing up the books I have. There should be three more after this one, I believe, but at this point I think I may have lost track of which books JB sent me and those I’ve picked up at cons.

While I’m at it I want to apologize again for posting so seldom but I have listed the reasons before. Hope you will forgive me and drop by every so often to see if I have actually blogged.

**************************************************************************
The Jakarta plot – R. Karl Largent; published by Leisure Books
ISBN: 0843945680

When you read these books you have to wonder how many ex-CIA agents are running around. Also, why does it seem the Agency always has to bring them back in to perform actions the current crop can’t seem to accomplish? I’m just asking.

Largent’s book is quite good, even though his hero, former agent Gideon Stone does seem to question himself a bit more than necessary. Stone is likable and I’m assuming that Largent will be bringing him back, if he hasn’t already (as the book was published back in 2006). One of the weaker elements is that some of the secondary characters, and there are dozens, never seem to really have any back-story, or any that we learn. We feel sympathy for them when they are injured or killed, but that’s because of how it affects Stone and not because we genuinely care about them. An odd thing is that this is truer of members of Stone’s team than of individuals on the opposing side. For instance, we know more about a native crewmember on a barge, used in a later mission, than we do about several servicemen who accompany Stone on his first rescue attempt.

When a group of Communist terrorists capture and hold captive U.N. delegates of an international meeting on the island of Java, including the U.S. Vice-President, the CIA is asked to attempt a rescue, while not admitting it publicly. Led by the popular Bojoni Sawak, the Bandung rebels demand that the current leader of their country step down and recognize the Bandung as the legitimate government, otherwise, the hostages will be executed one by one. With Stone already in the area, working to recover some documents lost when a civilian airliner is blown up, it’s an easy move to have him head up the assignment. Since he is an expert diver and former black op, you know that the ultimate rescue will involve at least some of those skills. When the initial attempt goes badly wrong, leading to the death of two of the group and the VP still hostage, the stakes rise. Stone has to get his team into the terrorist base, perform his mission and get everybody out alive. Complicating matters is the threat by China that any overt American intervention would be considered a provocative action and might lead to that country becoming involved.

As is typical of this type of book, Largent brings in a lot of technical information on the equipment Stone and his team uses. Interesting to a point, but it does make this reader skim over paragraphs of this stuff in order to get to the main action. If you are more into this Tom Clancy sort of thing and especially if you are interested in deep-sea vehicles and helicopters you might want to tack a half-star onto this. Overall I give this a solid -

Three stars

Do they really need a reason? Marvel Now & the 'new' New 52

As if keeping the continuity in mainstream comics wasn't difficult enough, given the number of 'events' that occur on a semi-annual basis in the Big Two, both have decided that a total reboot of their "universes" are necessary.  To be honest, we all know it comes down to orders from Disney & Time/Warner that sales need a boost even when the licensed film franchises are raking in millions for each company.  The monthly titles are just not generating enough to hold up their end, so something needs to be done to get the suckers...er, fans/readers interested again.

Last year DC's "FLASHPOINT" event led into the New 52, where all the company's books were cancelled and fifty-two titles were put in their place.  A third of them seemed almost half-hearted jokes to appeal to a small segment of fans, while the rest were basically Batman/Superman/Justice League tie-ins that had a built in audience that was likely to continue or even grow.  Well, it seems not so much.  So, of course, we get all the books getting a new first issue (or #0) or something like that, with some books spinning off from those and others ending.  I've given up caring on all but a few titles and may let this be a great time to drop all my DC buys.  I have "Court of Owls" and whatever the Teen Titan/Legion Lost cross-over was called to thank for helping me cut just about everything from my pull-list. As much as I was enjoying the two LoS-H books and Synder's BATMAN, I didn't appreciate feeling like my arm was being twisted to pick up related titles I didn't care for to begin with.

I know next to nothing about the current Marvel universe, having dropped all those books about six issues into the 'Heroic Age' era/event.  I had hoped that it really was going to be a positive push after the heavy stuff at Marvel from CIVIL WAR onward.  Sadly, it was pretty much more of the same, with most titles seeming to be little more than hand-wringing over what had happened the previous couple of years and waiting for the next event to get things going.  Wasn't the Sentry supposed to come back or something like that?

Apparently somebody, mostly likely not even directly involved in actually creating comics, decided that another short-term sales boost was necessary and since a reboot had gotten press and sales for DC, why not try it at the "House of Limited Ideas".  All I know is what places like Bleeding Cool, and a few other sites have had leaked to them and nothing I've read makes me care a whole lot.

Right now I'm down to Veritgo's AMERICAN VAMPIRE (with assorted tie-ins) and the occasional Marvel Zombie mini-series when it comes to titles from what were once my favorite publishers.  Dark Horse, IDW and Image (believe it or not) are the companies that are getting the majority of my comics cash nowadays.  From what I am reading and hearing I don't see that changing any time soon.

Monday, July 23, 2012

San Diego Comic Con 2012 - The Way I Saw It!

I’m a week late and everyone else in the world has already posted, but I thought I would throw in my own comments about my experience. This year, as some of you already know, I was only able to get a one-day pass for the event and that was for the Sunday. Most of the big events and stars had come and gone, but it didn’t stop the place from being packed. I seem to recall previous Sundays as being relatively light, but this year the aisles seemed to be filled.

I decided to take the train this year, rather than the hassle of driving and searching for parking. Remind me next year not to be that dumb! The trip south was just fine, with plenty of room and a nice view of the coast. Lots of surfers and paddle-boarders, along with some dolphins and I believe a shark fin sighting but I’m going to chalk it up to another single dolphin and my imagination. However, there had been some actual sightings of Great Whites in the area the past week, so you never know. Got a coffee and snack from the club car and couldn’t have been more relaxed. I’ll tell you about the very, different trip home later.

The train got in on time and I was at the Convention Center by 10:30, with hardly any line at all for badge pick-up. As bad as it is to actually order one online, the staff at the Center couldn’t have been nicer and more professional when you are there. This has been my experience the last few times I’ve attended the convention and don’t think the staff there gets enough credit for moving things along. This year the con gave out those giant bags that some companies were giving out previous years. Not sure about the previous days, but mine was promoting THE HOBBIT. I have to admit that the freebies table continues to be a disappointment for anyone looking for memorable stuff. I recall in the ‘90s the thing seemed to constantly being stocked with actual comics (full-size and ashcans) and trips back every few hours could earn you new material each time. Now you’re lucky to get some one-sheets for movies that will probably never see theatrical release, postcards and flyers for local stores and smaller retailers & publishers promoting their booths and events.

My only ‘must’ was to try and pick up a limited-edition Admiral Motti mini-bust from Gentle Giant for Kristina. You never know with those things, but I was in luck and hope she likes it when she finally comes to pick it up. It took me longer to find the booth, even though I had the number, than it did to actually get the item. I don’t know what it was like earlier but on Sunday there were only a few people in line ahead of me and the sales staff quickly got the bust and rang up the sale. I took it over to the Cons ‘coat check room’ and was able to wander the aisles with only the con bag over my shoulder.

There were only a few folks I wanted to see and actually did. I try to make it a must to stop off to see Randy Reynaldo, the creator/writer & artist for ROB HANES. If you are a fan of the old style comic strips like Terry & The Pirates, Secret Agent Corrigan, etc. then you should seek out Randy’s work. His site is http://www.wcgcomics.com/, where you can see samples of the Rob Hanes books and order copies of just about all the issues. I first met Randy at one of the San Diego cons in the late ‘90s and instantly became a fan of the character and series. Most of the issues are self-contained stories with Rob and his fellow agents of “Justice International” (notice there is no League in there nor super-heroes) solving crimes and stopping various felons. He is really a terrific guy, deserving of greater sales and more recognition. Independent publishers could do a lot worse than to put Randy, as either writer or artist, on one of their titles.

The other person I sought out was Marc Hempel, whose work on solo projects and with oft-times partner Mark Wheatley, I’ve been a fan of for years. Their two series MARS and BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT were two great titles from First Comics and WaRP respectively back in the mid-80s. They have worked together since and Hempel worked with Neil Gaiman on “The Kindly Ones” arc for the SANDMAN series at DC. Marc has really been nice to me on Facebook, acknowledging and responding to my questions and posts. Just wanted to drop by his table to thank him and he could not have been nicer.

Between those visits, wandering the aisles and picking up a few other things it was time for lunch. As usual I decided to head up to Dick’s Last Resort in the Gaslamp District. Dick’s is one of the more popular places for Con attendees and you can’t blame them. The waitresses and some waiters in cos-play, a nice selection of beer (on tap and bottles) and decent food, as well as its location make it all but perfect if you have an hour or so. The place is always crowded and noisy, but that is part of the attraction as well. If you have never been there keep in mind that wait staff is supposed to be slightly rude and pushy, so don’t take it personally. I know folks who hate the place, but they are not the kind of folks you want to hang with anyway.

Didn’t do much besides check out the larger displays and take some photos the last couple of hours I was there. Marvel had what is becoming an annual standard, namely a display of various Iron Man suits, including some from the up-coming third film. Good luck getting close to that most times of the day. DC is giving away fewer books, unless you want to stand in a very, long line to get a handful of logo buttons. I do like that they have placed Artist Alley down at the end of the exhibition hall and put the video game companies in the back. At least you can get through to that area and skip the always blocked aisles where the gamers are. AMC had a nice display this year featuring Michonne and her zombie duo. If you wanted (and were again willing to stand in line) you could have a collar placed on your neck and pose as the second zombie. As always it seemed a third of the costumers and many of the model & toy companies were promoting various Star Wars related products.

I finally decided a little after 4:00pm that I had done and seen just about everything, plus (also a regular thing) my left ankle seemed to have gone out on me and I was limping. I took one of the shuttle buses (Bless the convention for those!) and ended up gimping a couple of blocks to the train station. There I made the bad mistake of sitting in the station, and not going out to the platform until almost 5:30, figuring the train wasn’t due until 5:50. It turns out there was a waiting line for the 6:10 already around the building. It was interesting standing in line with a woman dressed as Jeannie, various manga/anime characters I didn’t know and at least one Doctor. Long story short I actually had to stand on my bad ankle from San Diego to Lake Forest (more than the ninety minutes it took in the morning), jamming myself and my two large bags into a corner with two folded wheelchairs. By the time I got home I could barely limp up the steps and the next morning I was using the bureau and walls to get to the bathroom.

Needless to say, when SDCC sends the e-mail in a month or so for pre-registration I’m going to try once again to get that four-day pass for 2013. The convention is just so amazing and despite the aggravation it is a lot of fun and I’d hate to miss it. Hey, at sixty-one I don’t know how many more cons I have in me!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Killer Shrews Official Trailer HD



The original "Killer Shrews (also known as "Attack of the Killer Shrews") is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasure movies. So bad that you either had to love it, or turn it off after the first ten minutes. I really have no idea how many times I saw this as a kid, and sadly the initial revelation of the shrew handpuppet used to scare the crap out of me. There are few films as bad as the original that are as much fun watching minus commentary as they are watching with the MST-3K crew tearing it apart. Never forget seeing it on a large screen at NYC's Film Forum with a very, appreciative audience.

Happily, the folks involved in this new film know how bad (in an amazing way) the original was and don't shy away from making this one with more intentional humor.

Best of luck to these filmmakers!

Monday, March 12, 2012

My John Carter Review



Just in case your wondering why this is even more rambling than usual, I really shouldn't blog, tweet, social network or, especially, vlog while drinking. Just seemed such a waste to have all that Coke and rum around going stale. Let this be a lesson to you kids!

On the other hand, it's the perfect condition for checking out the various Horror Hosts broadcasting on the Interwebs on Friday & Saturday night. I sometimes think I missed my calling.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Where's the video?


Sorry to disappoint those who'd rather see me in living color fidgeting about before the camera. I'm going to hold off today and actually write something.

By now, if you're a comics fan, you've made your decision on the DCnU(DC's New Universe or the DC/New 52, as the relaunch has been called). As I said in one of my videos at the time, I actually picked up all the #1 issues when they were published and close to half of the second issues the following month. Since then I've dropped more than half of those and may be whittling those down even more.

In my videos I've already talked about some of this, but wanted to clarify things for those of you wondering.

For a couple of years, pretty much all of 2004 - 2006, I all but gave up on comics. I'd just about gotten fed up with everything from the Big Two and I wasn't finding much that held my interest in the smaller companies. Also, it had just gotten to expensive to be spending a few hundred dollars a month, knowing that I'd never get a percentage of that back if I decided to sell my collection. When we moved here to California I only took along about a quarter of my collection, bringing along only those titles that meant something or might actually be worth a few bucks down the line. At the moment I have about a dozen short-boxes (holding about 150 or so books each), a long-box (300+) and a five-shelf bookcase with several shelves of TPBs & graphic novels. These get more use as Babie's perch for birdwatching, than they do from me browsing or re-reading.

I currently am cataloging my comics on both Comic Collector Live and Comicbook DB although there is a gap where neither database includes some of the books I have in my collection. Hard to believe, considering the thousands of collectors using one or the other, but I have picked up some weird things over the decades. I have actually gotten some titles added to both catalogs, but have been too lazy to scan covers and enter data for some of the others.

Hmmm, I seem to have gotten way off track from what I had wanted to talk about. Nothing out of the ordinary for any of you who have read this blog before, or seen my videos. But I digress, as some comic book writer has said on occasion. :-)

Where were we? Oh, right! The New 52.

To be honest, I don't know that even at my most fanatic point back in That Other Life, was I actually collecting more than a couple dozen titles. Not counting assorted one-shots, or mini-series, there may have been only 20+ comics that I was collecting at any one time. Right now I'm trying to get it down to maybe a dozen titles, published on a monthly basis, leaving me extra cash to be able to grab some new book or mini that catches my eye.

At the moment, I'm buying a single Marvel title, now that they have finally gotten around to finishing off THE TWELVE. Despite the announcement a couple of months ago, actually seeing issue #9 on the shelf at Nuclear Comics & Skateboards came as quite a surprise. In fact, owner Kenny had actually removed the title from every 'pull list' since he wasn't sure how many of his customers would still be interested. I actually had to go back and pull the earlier issues from the box to refresh my memory. There were so many plot lines and secondary characters that even someone used to comics continuity was having a problem keeping track.

Part of the problem with the DC relaunch, IMHO, was that they felt it necessary to replace almost every existing title with a new or revamped book. The editorial decision (or rather the marketing one) was that they not only wanted new readers, but you had to lure back those readers who might use the relaunch as an exit ramp from the DCU. You not only had to re-introduce the best known characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash & Aquaman) but throw in titles featuring lesser-known (to the non-fan) characters in hopes that some of them might be popular enough to interest a producer or merchandiser. Let's be honest, a company the size of Time-Warner really isn't interested in comic books per se.

This means that you not only have Superman (in two books), but Supergirl & Superboy. You get Batman (in three-four books) plus Robin, Nightwing, Batwoman, Batgirl and the new Batwing. Throw in four Green Lantern related books and hope a couple work out. It seems that Flash, Aquaman & Wonder Woman are only worthy of a single title each, but you can still toss them together into the Justice League along with former Teen Titan, Cyborg. Lesser former-Leaguers Green Arrow and Hawkman are still around in solo books, but both are there just in case Marketing finds something for them to do. You see where I'm coming from at this point, right?

Bottom line is that I just found the majority of the new books either too different from what I had expected or not different enough to make me care. Some had good writing and many had decent art, but in both cases they can only go so far when I have so many other choices and a limited budget. From what I have been reading and hearing, plus from the creative staff shuffling that has been apparent even before the first issues shipped, I'm not the only one who feels this way. DC claims to be happy with the sales figures, but when you announce that a half dozen of the books will be cancelled and replaced within six-issues, it does seem that things are not as rosey as the folks in Manhattan would have us believe.

I've gone on way too long, but it was fun actually writing for more than 140 characters.
I'll try to make this a more regular habit.

Take care!

Friday, January 27, 2012