Thursday, May 29, 2008

Something I Don't Want To Do

So, it's no surprise that with the US economy sprialing down the tubes, that everything's getting more and more expensive. This trend, fortunately, hasn't hit comics yet... but as $40 won't fill my gas tank anymore, anything I can do to help lower costs is something to be admired.

To that end, I'm finding myself seriously considering dropping almost my entire sub-form, and going to an online service like DCBS for most of my comic books. I've already taken a first step in removing my comics from ye olde comic shoppe by subscribing to Amazing Spider-Man, now three times a month, directly from Marvel. (They've got a rather nice deal, available via the above link, offering 36 issues, a full year of the book for $49.97.)

Services like DCBS allow you to place advance orders through their service at seriously discounted prices. However, it seems to me that you're responsible for placing your order each month, so you have to keep much more on top of what you're buying. And the big downside (as I see it) is that to take the best advantage of the service, you get your month's worth of comics in one shipment.

There's a special joy, to me, in purchasing new comics directly from the store every week. The guys down at ye olde comic shoppe don't need to ask my name, they know where my pull file is. I know a few of them, and consider them friends. I'd feel a little guilty pulling my business from behind the store, but when it all comes down, less money spent is less money spent. I've been shedding titles over the past few weeks, but I'm not sure that's enough.

Now, I'd plan on keeping 'event' comics on sub-forms at the store. I don't want to wait to read Final Crisis #3 until weeks after the news sites have already posted all of the spoilers. And any orders I'd place via DCBS will be for two or three months in the future.

So, I'd ask anybody reading the blog to chime in... have you used an online comic service? What did you think? Do you have a strong thought on the subject one way or another? Let me know!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Defining Moments in Cool

Henry Peter Gyrich may very well be the defining a-hole of the Marvel Universe. Hey may have stolen a prototype weapon meant to help defend the earth from a mystical threat from another planet, and used it to zap Storm, draining her powers. And he may run secret black-ops projects and employ former nazis trying to construct his power-base in the Initiative's training camp at Fort Hammond.

But it takes some serious cool to wear sunglasses inside a space suit! I couldn't pull that off... what if they slid forward? What if they made your nose itch?

Agent Gyrich... I salute you!

This image brought to you by the wonder and majesty of ROM#63 in which Forge supervises construction of a gigantic orbital weapon to zap all of the menacing Dire Wraiths off the Earth at once. Somebody saw a little too much Star Wars.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

As a rule, I keep my posting to this blog limited to comic-book related subjects only but today I'm going to make an exception.

What I enjoy most from my comic books, and from any other media that I consume, is quality storytelling. Ideally when I crack a book (whether it's got paragraphs or panels) I'm looking to be taken away to another place... whether it's Gotham City, Azeroth or the decks of the Galactica, I'm looking for a writer (sometimes assisted by artists or actors) to immerse me in the lives of other people and their own personal struggles.

Today, I completed Grand Theft Auto 4.

It's no big surprise that I love video games, but it was a surprise to me that I really enjoyed this one. I'd played a couple of the earlier GTA games, but they'd largely wound up as stress relievers for me. Had a bad day? Open up with a shotgun in a crowded street, and see how long it takes for the cops to bring you down. The story was simplistic at best, as you went from one mafia cliche to another, pulling off more difficult crimes until I lost interest. That's usually something that happeed fairly quickly. That's NOT what happened in GTA4.

I bonded with the main character, Nico Bellic pretty quickly. For the three people who might read this without being aware of the specifics, in GTA4 you play as Nico, an illegal immigrant from an unnamed country in Eastern Europe. He arrives in a fictionalized version of New York called Liberty City, to find that his cousin's promises of wealth and opportunity are unrealized dreams. Most of the activities that Nico takes a part in are no different than those in the previous games... but he's given an interesting past, as the survivor of a civil war in his homeland. He also has a personal mission in Liberty City as he searches for the man who betrayed his unit in the war, leading to the death of men he'd known from childhood. It's a story of vengeance that, for me at least, had a real impact. I cared about Nico, and about the new friends he made in his new home.

I came to the climax of the story today, and while the events of the climax are sad, I can honestly say I'm satisfied. The game's makers, Rockstar North, didn't skimp on the story. There was a theme that ran through the entire game (and it took me over 40 hours to reach the end.) In an art form where the pacing, and to some degree even the content are not decided by the creators, I'm truly impressed that the story told in this medium was as mature and developed as it was. This game deserves to get some press... for the right reasons.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 Preparation -or- Hunting the Wild Autograph

As we roll inevitably into a sweltering South Carolina Summer, I find comfort in the fact that it means that the annual pilgrimmage to Charlotte and Heroes Con draws nigh.

I love Heroes Con... it's usually adjacent to my birthday, which means I almost always have some money I can spend there. It might be a bit of a drive, but I've yet to have a bad experience there. And the experience has only gotten better since I added two items to the menu: signings and panel discussions.

The panel discussions are thoroughly enjoyable. I won't pass up on the DC Nation panel, because even though my interest in DC's heroes is waning in favor of Marvel, I can't deny that Dan Didio brings energy and enthusiasm into a panel. Even if I don't like what he's saying, he usually manages to amuse me. The Marvel panel last year fell really short of my expectations, and the fact that I don't see Joe Quesada on the guest list makes me wonder if we aren't going to see the same thing again this year, but hope does spring eternal. And if nothing else, the panels give me a place to rest my legs and look over my haul thus far.

But one thing that I think has really energized my experience at the convention is bringing books with me to be signed. I'm not usually an autograph junkie, and I don't tend to bother famous folks when I do stumble onto them, but I think that the signed book is the perfect memento of a comic book convention. I look at the scrawl on the cover, and it manages to take me right back to the experience of waiting in that line, and helps to keep the day fresh in my head. And the guest list for this year is considerable. Right now I find myself seated at my computer, trying to decide what to take with me.

Just a little over a month to go, and the excitement is building.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Taste the Irony...

Recently (as in yesterday) I walked into Ye Olde Comic Shoppe with a list of titles that I had decided to drop from my monthly pulls, after much soul-searching. One of those titles was DC's (well, in all honesty most if not all of the titles dropped were from DC... but I digress.) Among those titles was DC's The Brave and the Bold.

The relaunch of The Brave and the Bold was relaunched with an awesome story, told in a tag-team fashion like a campfire story. We went from Batman and Hal Jordan to Hal Jordan and Supergirl to Batman and the Blue Beetle, spiraling out in ever widening arcs of coolness. But subsequent stories were less and less cool, until I realized I was no longer excited about the title. That of course meant it was time for it to go away.

Enter today, as I'm reading Newsarama and see that J. Michael Straczynski will be writing the title come November. Now, folks that know me well enough, know that I'm a big fan of JMS. I discovered Babylon 5 late, but fell head over heels in love with it. I was a big fan of his run on Amazing Spider-Man... well, up until editorial mandates such as The Other and Civil War hijacked the book from him. And now I find that he's going to be taking over the book I just dropped. Figures. At least I'll have time to put it back on my sub form before it comes out.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Free Comic Book Day 2008

I challenge anyone to say that they got a better Free Comic Book Day than I did. When you get a genuine piece of Chris Sims artwork, signed by the master himself, life gets no better.

I've been neglecting blog posts as I settle into a new work routine, but as I said I'm also working on a writing project. I'm speaking to a couple of artists, which has me enthusiastic. I've wanted to try to write something with the goal of seeing it published, and to actually be moving in that direction is a great feeling. And with a few exceptions, the world of comics has been just making me sad, as Fraction and Brubaker prepare to wrap up their run on The Immortal Iron Fist, as the Order ends, and as Amazing Spider-Man continues a very mediocre Brand New existence.

But there is one thing I feel the need to weigh in on, and that's the new Iron Man movie. If you like comic books, you have to see this movie. I'm not an easy person to see a movie with, because my mind loves to pick apart the things that I DON'T like about it, rather than focus on the things that I do. And I'm saying, quite sincerely, that I could not find anything in Jon Favreau's interpretation of Iron Man that I did not, at the very least, like. Much of it I loved. This is easily on the level of Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man movie... but the more I consider it, the more I put it on the level of Spider-Man 2. I'm quite possibly on the way of declaring it the highest mark for a comic book movie out there.

To help put this all in perspective... I don't care for Iron Man in comics. I have purchased precisely 8 issues that have 'Iron Man' somewhere in the title. Eight. And if anybody hasn't told you, wait until the credits are done. There's a brief, but very exciting reward for doing so.