Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FRED CLAUS: A Late Holiday Review (Lede Only)

If one were to limit themselves to Christmas films released in the 90s and early 2000s as the foundation for judging the merits of Christmas movies as a genre, one would have found them wanting. Very few of the movies are classics. Crass commercial pieces like Jingle All the Way, misguided narratives like Jack Frost, combined with the absent-minded parents of Home Alone and the meanness of the characters in Deck the Halls, might lead a viewer to believe that Hollywood film-makers have lost the ability to make a touching Christmas film.

One could argue that many of the "going to visit the quirky family" Christmas films are a reaction to memories of syrupy/saccharin Christmas films of yore. Possibly a combination of this reaction with the cold reality that most of us are not blessed with the idyllic families of Christmas movies past. Never mind that the families actually depicted in the classic films are often broken -- like the single mother in Miracle on 34th Street -- or enduring significant hardships like the Bailey's in It's a Wonderful Life. There seems to be some part of the post 1950s film-making gestalt that is resistant to making movies that are fun and heartwarming.

Naturally, there are wonderful exceptions. About a Boy and Love Actually present lovely narratives that capture the holiday spirit without being too sugary sweet. And Jon Favreau's modern masterpiece Elf manages to successfully bridge the gap between adolescent fart comedy and truly capturing the Christmas spirit. Even an overly commercial franchise like The Santa Claus can have moments, as seen in the second film in the trilogy (avoid the others), where the value of the season and the warmth of giving can be seen.

Before this introduction is misunderstood, this is not a discussion of any so-called "War on Christmas" -- which is just so much blustering attempting to reignite/fuel existing culture wars. Anyone who has read the Holiday Movie Marathon list below should be well aware that isn't what is going on here. This is a conversation about the making of quality Christmas movie fare. A phenomenon that seems to happen less often of late than TCM makes me believe once was the norm. One finds it hard to imagine a Jingle All the Way being directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

It was films like Love Actually and Elf that made me believe that maybe Hollywood -- yes I know Love Actually is British, but when talking about film one almost always blames/praises Hollywood -- had finally outgrown its obsessive avoidance of potentially corny fare. Hollywood, like most modern comic book fans, seems to want to appear to favor "sophisticated" narratives over "simplistic" and "corny" ones. The same observation applies to most modern film critics as well. Never mind how moving the final scene of The Shop Around the Corner is, it seems they would prefer Alfred Kralik spend Christmas shooting up heroin in an alleyway while freezing to death instead of finding the woman of his dreams. One might argue that this resistance to "corn" goes beyond the Christmas season, but that is not the purpose of this background.

As was written above, Elf directed by Jon Favreau is one of the films that made this humble film viewer believe that there was room for the heartfelt Christmas comedy. Last November, Vince Vaughn followed in his friend's footsteps and starred in a Christmas comedy film. The name of the film was Fred Claus and it was released on DVD this past November 25, just in time for this year's holiday season. Vince Vaughn is an actor who has given audiences some wonderful performances in both dramas and comedies. The Break-Up is one of the better films of the past few years, and Dodgeball is a comedic gem. Vaughn is, for lack of a better comparison, our generation's version of Dean Martin. A giant Dean Martin who doesn't have any albums, but Dean Martin none the less.

The question then stands, "is Fred Claus typical Hollywood cynicism or does it have 'heart' like the best of Christmas films?"


Thursday, December 11, 2008

ARG for 2012?

The upcoming disaster film 2012 has an associated ARG that begins at the Institute for Human Continuity. As you know, 2012 is the last year of the Mayan calendar.

Let's take this for a ride, shall we. Who of us will "Survive 2012?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Golden Age Goodness...

From Pulp 2.0:

"Everyone knows I love classic fiction from the pulps, but often they are extremely hard to find or the reprints are of such poor quality that it hardly justifies the purchase price. Well, the folks at Galaxy Press have taken care of that and gone and created a book club for former pulp author turned founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard.

I was skeptical at first, but after glimpsing some of the books at Comic Con, and now having had the chance to read one, I am convinced this is a bargain at twice the price (only $9.95 each)."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: Gemini Division

NBC/Universal's new webseries Gemini Division starring Rosario Dawson premieres today with its first two, 5-minute episodes. The series follows Anna Diaz (Dawson), an undercover cop who is on a romantic holiday with her boyfriend Nick Korda (Justin Hartley, "Smallville"). Nick has proposed to Anna, and all seems happy until Anna notices a mysterious stranger (Kevin Alejandro, "Ugly Betty") is following them. Add to that a "seizure" suffered by her boyfriend, presumably caused by his heart condition (he has a pacemaker) and some strange goo found in the tub after Nick has taken a shower and Anna is unsettled, to say the least, at the end of Episode 2.

"Gemini Division" is a product of Electric Farm Entertainment, which was also behind Afterworld, a webseries which ran 130 episodes (!) last year.

Due to the recent success of Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog", certain comparisons and contrasts are sure to be made, but I don't think it is completely fair to compare the two enterprises, at least at this stage. "Dr. Horrible" is only a few shades off from traditional tv storytelling -- the episodes ran 13-15 in length and there was a built in fanbase attracted to the property from Whedon's other beloved properties.

Rosario Dawson is probably the biggest draw for this show, and she is used heavily. From the website descriptions it appears her character Anna will be drawn into a murder mystery, but what is more interesting is how this series, which will run 50 episodes (at about 4-5 minutes a pop), plans to integrate with other websites and an overall ARG (Alternate Reality Game) to be played by those who sign up on the site. Participants will follow clues, presumably to assist Anna in solving the mystery.

From a purely story standpoint, the first two episodes are interesting, but not gripping. The FX are very weak, but having spoken to some people connected to the series, I was urged to wait until episode 10 before passing final judgement, as the effects become dramatically better at that point. It looks like two new episodes will premiere on the website weekly, at least for the near future.

I enjoyed the conceit of this 'near-futuristic' PDA/iPhone/Windows Mobile device (Microsoft must be a huge sponsor for all of the product placement) which Anna uses to communicate with someone, we aren't sure who (maybe us?) in her transmissions. What separates from the first person "Lonelygirl15" storytelling style is the integration of 'videos' Anna has recorded which she drops into the transmissions. It's a neat device, and one I hope gets used to better effect. We, as the audience, are also clued into certain things, thanks to what appear to be some nifty abilities of this futuristic device; for example, when Anna aims the PDA at Nick as he is suffering some kind of seizure, the PDA tells us his heart rate and blood pressure are normal. Interesting, particularly when he blames the episode on his heart later on.

I do think the series provides an interesting template for other webseries to follow. The question now will be, can it generate enough interest and a following to make it a successful template. Only time will tell. I'll certainly be sticking with the series for awhile, as it does show some promise and for the 5 minutes spent watching, is intriguing.

Trailer for Gemini Division:

Making of Gemini Division video:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Little Mis Malice

(cross posted from Pulp 2.0)

"Melissa ( Malice's alias) is a comic book / OAV / videogame waiting to happen, and you heard it here first..."

See the interview video and more links over at Pulp 2.0

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Halo 3 Toys Series 3 Announced From McFarlane Toys

Check it, check it, check it OUT! Got these pics in the inbox today and had to share. The Series 2 toys are selling fast, but Series 3 are being released in September. If you are into McFarlane Toys or Halo 3 or both, get a looksee at this:

Monday, August 11, 2008

8/11 Tonight on Geekerati Radio: FALL OF CTHULU: GODWAR

Boom Studios editors have been wandering the Dreamlands looking for stories and Michael Alan Nelson is here to discuss FALL OF CTHULHU and non-Euclidian geometry.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

If You Listened To Last Night's Show...

and we know you did, then you heard my less than joyous review of SHMOBOTS - the slacker mechanical men tale from writer Adam Rifkin and artist Les Toil.

Well they've gone live with www.Shmobots.com...

But if you don't trust my angry reviews of graphic novels then you can read it for yourself.

So what do I know? Stan Lee loved it:

"Once you read SHMOBOTS, by the clever writer/artist team of Adam Rifkin and Les Toil, with a surprise on almost every page, you'll never look at robots the same way again!"

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jack Brooks Monster Slayer

Full review: From Pulp 2.0

In Short: "In this regard, JBMS -- which is supposed to be both funny and horrific -- is neither."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comic Con 2008: Hit or Miss?

I am going to write a quick post here to ask the question - there has been some discussion regarding Comic Con this year regarding what has been good and what has been bad.

I like Comic Con, but seriously I am not in love with it. It's always been a major drain on the resources with few tangible benefits other than the fanboy-ish glee one gets at seeing something first...

What made comic con good for you? What made it bad?

Discuss in the realm of free-thinking, honest discourse.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Faces of Comic Con:

Comic-Con Panel Solution Proposal

What if...

Part 1: The Problem
At breakfast this morning I was considering how many panels I have missed this comic-con because I was standing in line extremely early for a popular panel. While waiting in line for the the Halo Universe Panel, I missed two other panels that I wanted to attend. On Friday I went to get in line for the Star Wars 2008 panel which featured The Force Unleashed and Star Wars: The Clone Wars the game, the movie and the television show. While I was in line they were showing one of the BIG panels for the con, Will Eisner's The Spirit with Frank Miller and Samuel L. Jackson. The person directly behind me in the line wanted to see this panel and stood in line the entire time this panel was going on and we were lined up to see star wars and never got in for it. This gentleman and his wife wasted an hour of their day to stand in line arguing with me about Lucas's involvement in Pixar. He said they had nothing to with them, but at last year's comic con they showed a movie about the history of Pixar which explicitly states that they were a division of Lucasfilm. I give you their first short; The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.

But I digress, the problem is that you can't make it to all of the cool stuff you want to do at the con because of overcrowding and long lines.

Part 2:The Solution
This proposal is based on combing a few ideas that have already gone into effect at this years Comic-con. The sponsored WiFi brought to us by Eagle Eye means that we are all on one big computer network. What if there was a way for all of the people carrying Apple iPhones, Nintendo DSs, and other mobile WiFi capable devices to stream the video of the panel your waiting in line to see. You might not be in the room yet but you would still get to see the content. The technology to do streaming video broadcasts is available, Blogtalkradio video i'm thinking of you. Let's take it even farther and let anyone on the local wireless network to stream the panels they are NOT in line for so while they wait in line for something they are interested in they can browse the other panels that are going on elsewhere.

Part 3:The Opportunity
To ease the expense of this the whole system is brought to you by a big sponser like Eagle Eye or Apple or Batman Begins 3. And each time you access a panel it is preceded by a rotating trailer for something else that's cool. The live feed then starts up and no one misses any of the major panels. Imagine the buzz that Watchmen would get if all 125,000 people at the convention could watch the panel streaming.

Saturday of Doom!

Have plans to go see Howard Chaykin this morning at his panel to learn about the resurrection of AMERICAN FLAGG! as a graphic novel...

Also plan to see the DOLLHOUSE panel...


Scheduling conflict arises. One is on one side of the pavilion, and scheduled for midpoint of the other. This is a problem that I, and many others (read everyone) has been having with this years' Comic Con. You have to stand in line to see these things, and lo and behold, three hours later you don''t get in, and...


As Eric and I have breakfast this morning to strategize the day, we realized that this Comic Con has become to big, too unwieldy for the current location and infrastructure. There is discontent in the house kids, and unless something is done to a) alleviate the lines, b) alleviate the traffic crunch on the exhibitor floor, and c) reduce costs -- then Comic Con as a destination and a state of mind is gone.

Eric is working on a post on how to alleviate some of the problems (lines, schedules) and I'd like everyone to look at this as a problem we can all solve working together.

Your comments are greatly appreciated -- as always.

Penny Arcade Game Coming to PSN

The episodic adventure game Penny Arcade Adventure; On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness will make it to PS3 users via the Playstation Network. HotHead games announced this new port of their first game project at Comic-con. The tone of the game is pulp meets comics meets rpg all set in an HP Lovecraft horror world. I am definitely looking forward to this game which has a unique blend of point and click adventure game play and Japanese RPG elements(basically its a Final Fantasy clone when it comes to combat). Episodes of the game will be comparably priced with other platforms. Playstation+JRPG+Point and click+Penny Aracde=1 happy gamer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight Sez...

Take that, Bitches!


FARSCAPE Rumor Confirmed...

As first noted here...


StarBursting into comic stores this fall!

July 25th, 2008 - Los Angeles, CA - Today BOOM! Studios and The Jim Henson Company revealed that Rockne S. O'Bannon, beloved creator of FARSCAPE, will be writing BOOM!'s recently announced FARSCAPE comic book series. Widely recognized as one of the greatest sci-fi series in television history, the multi-award-winning FARSCAPE will make the transition to comics later this year.

"This is a dream opportunity for me - to get to continue the Farscape saga," O'Bannon said. "The comic book series starts off directly where the PEACEKEEPER WARS mini-series left us. It's like we're finally getting to experience Season Five of Farscape. Not only that, but the stories in the ongoing comic series will completely tie into the upcoming Farscape webisodes. Farscape lives!"

"I can't tell you how incredibly excited I am that Rockne will be part of the comic-book team. I'm a fan, and he's one of the best writers around," said BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid. "I'm doubly pleased that both Rockne and The Jim Henson Company folks have responded to the idea of making this series a direct continuation of the FARSCAPE TV series rather than an out-of-continuity tie-in. For fans of FARSCAPE, and with the show's creator involved, the comic series will fill that outer-space-sized void the show once occupied. In short, it's going to be frelling awesome!"

"Farscape the television series was a huge production, but we still had to tailor our storytelling to conform to the inevitable television limitations of story length and logistics and budget," O'Bannon added. "The great thing about the comic book medium is that the scope and scale of the Farscape world is no longer restricted. In terms of where we can go, what we can show -- these new stories will be Farscape Unrestrained."

Not wanting to give away too much of what's in store in the new comic series, O'Bannon did reveal, "One of the places that we always wanted to explore in the television series was Rygel's home world of Hyneria. No matter how passionate we were about telling that story, we simply couldn't do it. But now one of the massive-scale arcs in our first 4-issue comic series has us off to Hyneria!"

Debuting on the SCI-FI Channel in 1998, FARSCAPE follows the adventures of Astronaut John Crichton, who has a freak accident during an experimental space mission that catapults him across a thousand galaxies to an alien battlefield. Suddenly, he's trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology - a battle that 20th century sci-fi pop culture never prepared him for. Hunted by a merciless military race, Crichton begins his quest for home from a distant galaxy.

A groundbreaking award-winning sci-fi production, FARSCAPE has become a global favorite. Named by TV Guide as one of television's "Best Cult Shows Ever" and most recently named by EMPIRE Magazine as one of the "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time," FARSCAPE is known for the overwhelming fan-based campaign that led to its miniseries production. The show has continued to find new audiences as it airs in syndication and is available on DVD around the world.

About BOOM! Studios

BOOM! Studios (
http://www.boom-studios.com) is a unique new publishing house specializing in high-profile projects across a wide variety of different genres from some of the industry's biggest talents. In its inaugural year, Wizard Magazine named BOOM! "Best New Publisher." Founded by the creator of the TV show EUREKA, Andrew Cosby, and his partner Ross Richie, BOOM! Studios continues to be on the leading edge of comic and graphic novel publishing.

About The Jim Henson Company

The Jim Henson Company has remained an established leader in family entertainment for over 50 years and is recognized worldwide as an innovator in puppetry, animatronics and computer graphics. Best known as creators of the world famous Muppets (the rights to which are now owned by The Walt Disney Company), Henson is the recipient of over 50 Emmy Awards and nine Grammy Awards. Credits include the Saturn Award-winning "Farscape" and the features "MirrorMask," "Five Children and It" and "Good Boy!". With additional locations in New York and London, The Jim Henson Company is headquartered in Los Angeles on the historic Charlie Chaplin lot complete with soundstage and post-production facilities. Independently owned and operated by the five adult children of founder Jim Henson, the Company is also home to Jim Henson's Creature Shop , a pre-eminent character-building and visual effects group with international film, television and advertising clients, as well as Henson Recording Studios, one of the music industry's top recording facilities known for its world-class blend of state of the art and vintage equipment. The Company is currently in production on "Sid the Science Kid," a new science readiness animated series for preschoolers scheduled to debut on PBS in September 2008, and recently launched "Puppet Up! - Uncensored," a live puppet improvisational show that has played to sold out crowds around the world and premiered as a special on TBS. The Company has also announced the creation of Jim Henson Designs, a merchandise collection inspired by Jim Henson's earliest sketches.

What Happens at Comic Con Stays at Comic Con:

Stephen Baldwin Speaks...

About his new comic for Boom Studios - THE REMNANT!


I am in recovery from the Boom Studios Party and drinking coffee to replace my fluids... Yes, send nurses.

Lots of fun and laughter last night at the Hyatt with lots of familiar comics and game faces.

Caleb Monroe was there - for those of you who don't know Caleb is writing the new comic THE REMNANT - and I spoke with him briefly about it. They have previews over at the Boom booth so I will pick some up.

Matt Gagnon, editor of the benefit PULP TALES book for Josh Medors, a comic artist who is in need of health care (aren't we all?) says that sales are brisk for the PT book with the BEN TEMPLESMITH COVER!!!!!

(see Matt? I told you I could drive sales up 10% )

MIKE NELSON (FALL OF CTHULU, X-ISLE, ENIGMA )was there with the writer's room from John Rogers' new show on TNT LEVERAGE. John has a mostly female writing staff which is a most excellent thing as they are the ones who politely laugh at my mad pulp bastardry and move on. You will see them post occasionally on John's blog Kung Fu Monkey.

LEVERAGE just completed their first episode (in a record SIX - COUNT 'EM SIX - DAYS!!!) of production without a hitch. They are moving along at the speed of television (wussies need not apply).

FARSCAPE FANS take note - big announcement today regarding the FARSCAPE comic from BOOM and Henson studios. It's been rumored, but today it will be confirmed. Let's just say it ties the web and the comic together and leave it at that.

MATT FORBECK - writer of the MUTANT CHRONICLES movie adaption was there as was former TOKYOPOP editor HOPE DONOVAN. Look for new stuff from both. Hope especially wants to do something in the "teen girl comics" category (which is woefully underserved except from manga), but isn't limiting herself.

MARK WAID is super-excited about the new Disney/Pixar line coming out from Boom. He gets to write THE INCREDIBLES. mark is one of those guys who genuinely loves comics of all types and seems to instantly cultivate that little kid inside himself whenever he sees one.

That's enough for now. More later after my blood supply is replaced.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eric SDCC Update #1

The first impression one has upon arrival, is that the show has become WAY too big for this convention center. It seems as though there are twice as many people as last year in the hallways. Even panels I was expecting to have short lines and sparce attendance provided long waits and crowded inside. Like the panel for episodic gaming. Particularly shocking was the DEXTER panel which was in one of the smaller rooms and should have been either the ballroom or the main exhibit hall H.

Evab after all the waiting and making my way through all of the crowds, every panel was filled with fun, insight, and cool exclusive stuff.

The first panel I attended this morning was a celebration of 75 years of Doc Savage. I have only this year become a fan of the Man of Bronze but the panel was exciting. Michael Uslan, executive producer on the new Batman movie The Dark Knight, annouced that he is planning a Doc Savage movie. His depth of knowledge on the subject appeared to be deep. He shared both anecdotal stories and examples of a breadth of knowledge he could have obtained as a comics and pulp historian.

Things got even more interesting from there as my second panel of the day was SPORE CREATOR. Will Wright provided a One-on-One Audience presentation with only his laptop and a power point show. His presentation had great geek humor, including many sight gags and funny stories about story telling and play. His point being that games should be both a story and play at the same time because they are closely linked experiences. A demo of several of the features of Spore and the wide arrange of user generated content that online users will encounter which to date includes more than 2 million unique species created in the Spore Creature Creator which they released only a few weeks ago as both a free and premium download.

More thoughts on other panels to come later, lots to get to still.

Just a Reminder --

The Geekerati crew will be at the G4 and the Boom Studios parties tonight with video cameras and some swag.

Be prepared to do tricks for the camera.

(as the internet quakes for a moment and settles in for the inevitability of it all)

Shawna's Thursday Comic Con Update #1

More and more I’m convinced that the time, energy and money required to make the most of Comic Con just isn’t worth it. After the pain of finding a hotel, which was really too far away to be at all convenient, even with trolley service, and the pain of not finding parking at the trolley stop, and driving downtown to another stop, and finally finding street parking, and then getting on the trolley, we arrived at the Convention Center a half an hour after we wanted to be.
The mob to get into the Con was maddening. Everyone is overcharged for everything – parking, food, hotels…and the entire town feels too small for this event. And every year the crowd endures, presumably because what awaits inside the Convention Center is worth more than all of the costs and hassles combined.
In fact, once the panels start all of the frustrations fade away, and you are left in a room with hundreds of others lapping at the waters of ingenuity and genius. You share space with those who are eager to learn about and support whatever new enterprises are being discussed, be they comics, films, television or games. The fanbase is ravenous and must be fed. The types of feedings vary – from small trinkets, like pins or postcards for a show, to slightly more interesting, like blow up balloon swords or Stan Lee paper masks, to the truly “priceless” – sneak peeks at what is to come. Hints, tidbits, clues and even some spoilers about what fans can expect in the future from the series/book/film/game. In many ways the intangibles, such as video clips and the Q&As can be far more rewarding than any canvas bag or mini-comic.
So starts my Thursday.

Kings Panel: The first twenty minutes of the 2 hour "Kings" pilot was shown at the top of the panel. Beautifully shot, with a $10 million budget, Kings will air on NBC in February, Kings and tells a modern day version of David and Goliath. Ian McShane, who got stuck in traffic and was unable to make the panel, plays King Silas, the man who ended the war with Gath and created the capital of Shiloh. David is played by Chris Egan (Eragon), a young soldier who fought in the war and dared to face the “Goliath” tanks of the Gath to save the life of the King’s son, taken hostage on the battlefield. The director, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) said about the script penned by Michael Green that it was perfect. “Most scripts come to you and they’re average, but you can see the potential. The pilot for “Kings” was the same as what I received – no changes.”

Next up was an hour of listening to JMS answer questions from those who aspire to be writers, beginners with questions about agents, breaking in, and how-tos. More interesting were those questions about making writing a career, persistence and creativity. The man is a wealth of knowledge, given that writing has been his occupation since he was 17, and he was both cautionary and encouraging.
My first foray into the Ballroom 20, second only to Hall H in terms of its vastness, was for the Doctor Who / Torchwood panels. As expected, there were no hints as to what to expect in the future of the show, once Steven Moffat takes over from Russell T. Davies as executive producer in about a year. Moffat’s season won’t start airing until 2010, quite a long time to determine the future direction of the show. One thing is clear – Moffat relishes the chance to helm the show, citing repeatedly that this is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Listening to him talk about the show, it feels as if the fanboys have one of their own to rely upon, and in that they trust him implicitly to keep the show up to the quality which is now expected, and possibly even surpass it.

Of Torchwood season 3 we learn that it is unique, as is the next year or so of Doctor Who with its 4 “specials”, Torchwood will have one large story told on the canvas of 5 episodes, challenging what is left of the Torchwood Cardiff team under the command of Captain Jack Harkness to deal with more hardships. In fact, Russell T. Davies did not appear in San Diego so occupied is he in scripting the 5 episodes, which begin shooting in a month.

It was announced at the panel that BBC America will air Season 3 of Torchwood in Spring 2009, shortly after UK premiere, and that deal had only been finalized today.

Apparently all could be worse: Traffic is completely snarled on the 405 and the 5 headed down to San Diego from L.A. today. Accidents are causing guests to be late for (or not show up at all to) panels. I’m now glad that despite the melee to get into the Exhibit Hall last night, that I was here and ready to deal with today.

Next up: News about “Wizard’s First Rule”, HBO’s new series “True Blood”, and “Dexter!” Video clips of today’s panels reported here will be up later tonight and this post will be updated with the links.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flickr Feed - Comic Con pictures

There's a flash badge in the sidebar. As I add photos to my Flickr feed.

Feel free to use this post as a place to talkback about the Con!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm in Trouble Aren't I...?

From Pulp 2.0

This is my Friday morning interview...I am sure she is a lovely girl (what with the name Mistress Malice and all) and has many sweet, adorable attack kittens in her con booth ....

With razor sharp fangs and claws aiming for any available blood vessel...

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Plan for Comic Con 2008:

Can be found here:

The important bits:

Got to www.Twitter.com/geekerati and sign up to follow the feed. We will be giving you minute by minute updates from all sorts of panels. Want to know what's up with Whedon's DOLLHOUSE and DR. HORRIBLE ? Want to know about the Tori Amos comic ? How about Mistress Malice - the After Dark Horrorfest Scream Queen? And let's not forget THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, UNDERWORLD 3, SPORE, DEAD SPACE, and many other must see events.

Want to talk to comic / Hollywood creators at the Boom Studios party ?

It will be like YOU ARE THERE (too old a reference for you kids? Gawd, I'm a geezer).

Video will be posted at the Geekerati Blog and hosted by YouTube so if you search all you will have to type in is: GEEKERATI SDCC 2008.

We will be testing the live stream tonight/tomorrow and we'll let you know when it will be on.

Regular podcasts will be at the end of the day -- every day -- except Saturday night, where we will delay the podcast until Sunday morning breakfast.

See you there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

San Diego Comic Con 2008 Preview Show and the Search for the World's Greatest Superhero

Tonight on Geekerati: San Diego Comic Con is only 10 days away. The event attracts a crowd the size of a reasonable city, but is the title "Comic Con" still appropriate? Our panelists will be covering the event live, and today we'll be talking about what the Con is offering this year.

Call in with your questions LIVE at 10 PM Eastern / 7 PM Pacific. Also, let us know what you are looking forward to hearing about from Comic-Con. The more we know what you want to learn, the better our coverage of those topics will be!

Monday, July 7, 2008

100 Best Westerns, Tonight on Geekerati

Tonight we'll be discussing the recently released list of the 100 Best Westerns (not the hotel chain, the films), as determined by the Western Writers of America. We'll talk about our own top 10 favorites, agree or disagree with the "official" list, and talk about the many subsets of Westerns from early silent films to today.

Join us LIVE at 10 PM Eastern / 7 PM Pacific Monday July 7! Chat in our chat room or call in to the show to talk about your favorites.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gearing up for Comic-Con

Your faithful Geekerati Crew will be covering all the haps at the world famous* Comic-Con July 23-27. We're lining up some awesome interviews for our blog here and for our radio show/podcast. Set your bookmarks accordingly -- we'll also have a TwitterStream going for real time breaking news reporting. Details as we get closer, but you will be able to go to Twitter to read the feed directly or just come here to read the latest.

We're excited! It should be fun -- we're even going truly multimedia for this event -- you might even see our mugs on some videos!

Stay tuned. Check back often. Tell your friends. We may not be one of those fancy pants big websites, but we are mighty, and you shall hear our roar.

* world famous, as in, the entire world will be there, crammed into rooms far too small for 125,000 people.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Action Speaks Louder...

Having been immersed in the D2DVD market for most of my career I’ve often wondered about the origins and thought processes that go into the making of an action film. This is a genre that Americans seem to do really well along a variety of budget levels from LETHAL WEAPON to Steven Seagal’s latest DVD action-fest.

What is it about the action film that intrigues us so? Is it the violence? The righteous sense of justice (something that we’ve mythologized throughout our history - hence the term “legendary Old West.”)? What are the elements that go into the character of an archetypal action hero? Can we trace the roots of heroic action (from Greek myth and before) to today(DIRTY HARRY, DEATH WISH, SPIDERMAN, ROBOCOP)?

Fortunately, we don’t have to do that. Eric Lichtenfeld has done that for us in his excellent book ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie (Wesleyan University Press). Eric (and I call him that because we’ve been corresponding on the archetype of the hero, and because he's younger and smarter than this old bastard so I need to get my digs in) delves deep into the DNA of the action hero and the genealogy of how action heroes relate to one another. How does ROBOCOP relate to SHANE? What do Rutger Hauer, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis have in common? What heroes break the mould of the “typical” action hero and why? How many different types of action heroes are there?

It’s these critical analyses of the action hero archetype that makes this book a must-read for those of us in the business of creating such characters. Eric has given these different iconic heroes the dissection they deserve so that we can clearly see where our characters violate the norm (and whether or not that’s a good thing). The book includes reviews, production timelines and excerpts from the studio marketing materials used to “sell” these movies to the public at large.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book (available on Amazon). I am certain it will be the reference work for the action screenwriter. I have it on my desktop here at the office.

Oh and FYI - The Action doesn't stop at the printed word. Eric has himself a blog where he expands on his analyses of the action hero. Read the book. Read the blog.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Announces Origin Awards Nominees (Part One)

Last week the Game Manufacturer's Association (GAMA) announced their annual list of Origins Award Nominees. The Origins Awards are the most prestigious award in the Adventure Gaming hobby and the winners are determined by the members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, a committee of GAMA. This year's list contains a wide variety of nominees, covering many genres within the gaming hobby.

Below is the list of nominees followed by my own commentary regarding the individual products:

The first category this year is MINIATURE OR MINIATURES LINE. As one might guess, miniatures can be an important component of the adventure gaming hobby. There are those who prefer to play "merely in the minds of the players," and that works very well for many games. But as someone who has gamed for over 25 years, there are times -- surprising as it may seem to say -- when using miniatures can add a wonderful narrative component to an evening's play. A picture can be worth a thousand words after all.


Having limited talents in the painting of figures, and even less time to develop an talents I do have, my unpainted miniatures purchases have always been limited. Add to that the creation of the D&D Miniatures pre-painted line and my purchase of unpainted miniatures has completely died off. This being the case, I'll leave opinions of which line/individual miniature deserves this year's award up to you the reader. Following each nominee I am providing a representative image provided by the manufacturer of the line/individual miniature. Some of these are particularly nice.

Skarrd Raze #2
by Dark Age Games

George R.R. Martin Masterworks - Premium Miniature Line
by Dark Sword Miniatures, Inc.

Titanius Fury
by Dragonfire Laser Crafts Inc.

Apparently this is a typo at the GAMA site. According to the Dragonfire site, it should be Titania's Fury. If this is indeed the product in question, it gets my vote hands down as a useful and innovative product.

Bronzeback Titan, HORDES: Evolution Miniatures Line
by Privateer Press

Dark Heaven Legends Fantasy Miniatures
by Reaper Miniatures

You really need to click on the link above to get a sense of the entire Dark Heaven line produced by Reaper Miniatures. It is the last of the old school lines of RPG miniatures and is a very good, and very deep, product line. Below is a sample of one of the figures in the line.

Following the MINIATURE or MINIATURES LINE award comes the award for best MINIATURES RULES. It should be noted that this award is central to the adventure gaming hobby. Were it not for H.G. Wells' book Little Wars or for Gary Gygax and Jeff Perrin's CHAINMAIL, the adventure gaming hobby would not exist as it does today.


Classic Battletech

Published by Catalyst Game Labs
Created by Jordan Weisman
Edited by Michelle Lyons, Diane Piron-Gelman

In an era of click based miniature games and collectible card games, it is heartwarming to see that one of the great miniature games of the past continues to perform strongly and receive the recognition it is due. Classic Battletech is one of the few games that truly deserves to have the word "classic" attached to it. The latest version of the rules updates battlemech construction to ensure more balanced encounters and has been well supported by the fine folks at Catalyst Game Labs.

Saganami Island Tactical Simulator, Second Edition
Published by Ad Astra Games
Created by Ken Burnside and Thomas Pope

While my friends might believe that I own every game actually in print, I don't own a copy of this space combat miniatures simulation. The game is inspired by Baen Books' Honor Harrington military SF fiction series. When it comes to ship to ship space combat games, I tend to stick with SILENT DEATH and BATTLEFLEET GOTHIC or RENEGADE LEGION. When it comes to fun and games, I tend to avoid those that require the use of 3D vector space. I'm chicken. I admit it.

Forces of WARMACHINE: Pirates of the Broken Coast

Published by Privateer Press
Created by Brian Snoddy and Matt Wilson

Pirates, Steam Powered Magical Robots, and a coherent rules set...what's not to love. Privateer Press' WARMACHINE line is a great product line that rivals Rackham for the quality of sculpts. Unlike Rackham's games, one doesn't have to read awkwardly translated French to learn the rules. This is a great addition to a great game. Privateer Press is an exciting gaming company. From their first module for 3rd edition D&D to their card games, they strive for quality.

Published by Rackham
Created by Arnaud Cuidet, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, Nicolas Raoult, and Jerome Rigal

Having been a WARHAMMER 40K player for over 15 years, it would have taken something pretty special to get me to pack up my Eldar and Space Marines in favor of another game system. AT-43 is that system. As a Rackham game, it has simply some of the best sculpting I have ever seen in the gaming industry. Rackham miniatures are beautiful, and AT-43's are pre-painted. Add to this a good list of affordable terrain features that can be used in other games as well, and I didn't mind having to read poorly translated French in order to learn how to play this game. This is a fun game with beautiful components and an interesting backstory which, like many games coming out of Europe today, has some salient things to say about modern international politics.

Song of Blades and Heroes
Published by Andrea Sfiligoi
Created by Andrea Sfiligoi

It's quite the honor for a "independent" game to be nominated for an Origin award. I haven't play tested this game, but at $15 with an Origin nomination this game is on my short list of games to buy and try.

MY PICK: AT-43 -- It's a great addition to the French invasion in adventure gaming. If only I could find a copy of Asmodee Games' C.O.P.S. roleplaying game. I'd be a happy man.

There's more to adventure gaming than the games. Many gaming companies publish non-fiction and fiction books in support of their product lines, the hobby, or topics related to the hobby. TSR was the first company to publish media tie-in fiction with their roleplaying game, but many have followed and some companies publish non-media tie-in fiction as well.

Astounding Hero Tales
Published by Hero Games
Edited by James Lowder

While related to Hero Games' PULP HERO sourcebook in theme, this anthology of pulp fiction is a worthy addition to any pulp fans bookshelf. Edited by James Lowder this anthology includes stories by Hugh B. Cave and Lester Dent in addition to pulp tales written by veterans of the game industry. Cinerati's companion podcast Geekerati had an interview with editor James Lowder last year where discussion of this book came up.

Dragons of the Highlord Skies
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

The line of books that established that rpg media tie-in books could be profitable continues with this bestselling novel. With this book, readers learn what happened "between the lines" of the original trilogy.

Frontier Cthulhu

Published by Chaosium
Edited by William Jones

In BLACK STRANGER, Robert E. Howard spun a yarn simulating what might have happened if Conan had lived among the native Americans. The Picts of that tale were closer to the Sioux than the historic Picts. With the Frontier Cthulhu anthology, Chaosium Games gives us 14 tales of what might have happened as people explored American frontiers.

The Orc King
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by R.A. Salvatore

Who says archetypal pulp adventurers are dead? In THE ORC KING, R.A. Salvatore shares with us the continuing saga of one of the most popular characters in fantasy fiction Drizzt Do'Urden. Where Elric was the anti-Conan, Drizzt is in many ways the anti-Elric.

The Time Curse

Published by Margaret Weis Productions
Written by James M. Ward

Last year saw a return of the Endless Quest/Choose Your Own Adventure style books of my childhood and Margaret Weis Productions were at the forefront of that wave. James Ward's THE TIME CURSE is a fun jaunt and a good representation of the genre. And while the book is still available, it is sad to see that the Weis Productions website is downplaying the Paths of Doom line of books.

MY PICK: ASTOUNDING HERO TALES, but you should really pick up THE TIME CURSE as well. It's only $4.50, and it's fun.

Last year was a big year in non-fiction publication for the adventure gaming hobby. Some great books came out last year, and the list of nominees shows that strength.


40 Years of Gen Con
Published by Atlas Games
Written by Robin D. Laws

Long gone are the days when Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in America, was held in Milwaukee, WI. I attended the con the final year it was held in that fine city and I had a great time. In this volume, edited by Robin D. Laws, several gaming luminaries -- including the now deceased creator of the D&D game Gary Gygax -- share their thoughts on the first 40 years of this conventions history. Given that the company who currently hosts the con is having some legal troubles with Lucas, let's hope that this doesn't become the definitive complete history of the con.

Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Shelly Mazzanoble

This book, by Shelly Mazzanoble, was aimed at informing women about roleplaying games in general and D&D in particular. Shelly succeeds masterfully at this task. And though she has received some minor criticism from some members of the the "He Man Women Hater's Club," she has also managed to write what might be the best introduction to the D&D game published to date...regardless of sex. While it's true that male readers will have to tolerate side comments about Sex in the City and trips to the mall, it is also true that Shelly has captured the essence of what makes this hobby so much fun for me.

Shelly was recently a guest on the Geekerati Podcast.

Grand History of the Realms

Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood

While the Forgotten Realms isn't the first world setting for a roleplaying game, it is one of the best selling...if not the best selling. This non-fiction -- and rules free -- book is a must have for any long time fan of the Realms, whether in its game of fiction form. This book gives a good overview of the history of the Realms and gives some glimpses at what the future holds in store as well.

Hobby Games: The 100 Best
Published by Green Ronin
Edited by James Lowder

In HOBBY GAMES: THE 100 BEST, James Lowder brings together 100 essays written by the cream of the crop of the gaming industry to write about their favorite hobby game. Over the years there have been too few books about the gaming hobby, but books of this quality fill quite the gap in quantity. Most of the 100 essays in this book are insightful and well written. In fact, I'll bet you that if you buy this book you will buy no fewer than 5 new games based on the stories/recommendations herein. You might even spend a month on Ebay looking for a good copy of an out of print game. Lord knows I did. James Lowder discussed this book in detail during our podcast interview last year.

No Quarter Magazine
Published by Privateer Press
Nathan Letsinger, editor-in-chief
Eric Cagle, editor
Josh Manderville, art director

NO QUARTER seems to have taken this year's slot as "token gaming magazine" in this category after the death of the physical DRAGON magazine this past year. It will be interesting to see if next year's awards include Wolfgang Baur's KOBOLD QUARTERLY or the online editions of the DUNGEON and DRAGON magazines.

MY PICK: It's a tough toss up between Shelly Mazzanoble's book and the James Lowder Collection, but I'm going to have to cast my vote for CONFESSIONS. If you want a copy, let me know and I'll mail you one (only applies to the first few requests).

Tomorrow, I'll cover part two of this list...The actual games.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An Average Jane Review of Second Life

An Average Joe Jane Review of Second Life

by Julie Benson (guest poster)

My SL Avatar, who shall remain nameless

First: What is Second Life? Here is the explanation from the website with my added interpretations and comments in bold:

“Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents (computer programming nerds and perverts). Since opening to the public in 2003 (with most of you just now hearing about it 5 years later, no thanks to the marketing staff), it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe (mainly horny, bored, and introverted men/boys).

From the moment (approx. 2 hours after downloading the software and creating your avatar) you enter the World you'll discover (stumble upon or accidentally teleport to) a vast digital continent (fake cities), teeming with people (men/boys), entertainment (porn and illegal gambling), experiences (to fly) and opportunity (to meet men/boys). Once you've explored a bit (an hour or so after restarting the crash heavy program a few times), perhaps you'll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business (if you're insane enough to decide to spend real money on fake 3D property).

You'll also be surrounded by (hounded, stalked, and chatted at) the Creations of your fellow Residents. Because Residents retain intellectual property rights in their digital creations (fake stuff), they can buy (not likely), sell (most definitely) and trade with other Residents.

The Marketplace (fake/imaginary online inventory) currently supports millions of US dollars (that’s real money people) in monthly transactions (mainly dealing with porn or slutty avatar costumes). This commerce is handled with the inworld unit of trade, the Linden™ dollar (that’s fake money people), which can be converted to US dollars (again, real money) at several thriving online Linden dollar exchanges (aka, idiot banks).

Welcome to the Second Life world (since you can’t socialize properly in the real one). We (evil computer programming geniuses) look forward to seeing you (spend real money) inworld (for fake stuff in a fake 3D online game).”

Before you take my snarky and sarcastic observations as complete distaste and disgust for such an online venture, keep reading...

About two years ago, I saw a news program was tutting the ridiculousness of this “new” online world, Second Life, and whether or not it could find a home in real corporate America and make a profit. Now, as someone who refuses to create a MySpace or Facebook page in fears it will either monopolize all of my remaining free time, allow people too much access to my already very vocal opinions on favorite music and movies, or the more likely reason, that the government will no doubt use it as some sort of tracking device, I was reluctant to download this 3D social networking program. However I threw caution to the wind and installed this newfangled memory eater on my laptop. The first indoctrinations of creating your user name and avatar were actually fun and entertaining, albeit, exhausting as I’m prone to indecision on such important choices. Finally my character was born and I realized I had only succeeded in creating a better, thinner, more blonde version of myself – the Julie 2.0 – down to the blue jeans and tank tops. Oh well, I was sure there had to be more of these generic LA specific avatars running around, I’d simply blend into the mix. I was finally ready to fly in SL, but only after repeated program crashes and update downloads. Now I was ready to fly in SL!

I wanted to chat with my fellow man, explore distant lands I couldn’t normally afford to visit, discover fresh new musical/artistic talents, and see how commerce could be rendered and rezed in a new way. Like Christmas morning, or receiving my first IM, this was going to be big and I was ready to join in. But where to go? OK, no problem, SL created a newbie island where one can practice their flying skills, learn how to chat with other users, and explore forward and back arrows navigating your avatar around trees and whatnot. Shockingly, when I arrived there were quite a few naked avatars trying on new wardrobes and hairstyles. Once some of the newbies saw the cooler potential their basic avatars could take on, the island had become a no modesty allowed dressing room of sorts. I averted my eyes and clicked the “fly” button immediately – finally, airborne after all these years of waiting for my flying car. Sure I had to deal with a few choppy graphics that seemingly took forever to load, but I was FLYING! Go ahead, laugh, I know we all saw that OFFICE episode where Dwight showed off his avatars flying prowess, but I was having fun. On the internet. In a new way. My landing was computer programmed, but I’m positive they knew it was me, as my avatar landed with an awkward face first thump and had to stand up and shake the dust off. It was eerie. Mixed in with us newbies were the practiced residents with cool stormtrooper, dragon ladies, you name it, avatars. Something they don’t tell you right away is HOW to wear a box of goodies someone gives you or you buy. So it was the norm to see us newbies running around wearing boxes on our bodies, as later we’d learn to unpack the box and wear the contents. Oh look, I just saved you some newbie humiliation, you’re welcome.

However, I was immediately humiliated when a nicely groomed woman (?) chatted to me that my hair was stupid and on wrong. I came to SL all the way from real life only to suffer the usual humiliation granted to me there on a daily basis, typical. Luckily, she was helpful and not just judgmental and gave me some stylish hair options to choose from, for free, mind you. With my new platinum plaits in order, I was ready to forget my former humiliation and socialize with the other newbies. Within 5 minutes I was hit on more than a blackjack table in Vegas with such courteous and gentlemanly lines like, “Your (yes spelled wrong) hot” and “Hey baby, nice boobs”. Nice boobs? I didn’t have anything to do with my boobs; they were as a computer nerd made them. Well I never! I tried to ignore the onslaught of, ahem, compliments, and decided that it was probably only teenage boys on this SL thing and I’d be better off in real life.

About a year later, I decided to give SL another chance. I had heard they made some improvements, by outlawing gambling (thanks Fed), and gave wrist slaps to programmers who sold genitalia and pornographic avatar moves (yes that means what you think it means). I thought, it can’t be only perverts and gambling addicts in SL, there has to be more to this potentially amazing world. Thanks to the SL blog and a SL Google search, I quickly found the fan built island coordinates for my nerdy secret pleasures – Doctor Who and Star Wars. I teleported my skinny blonde avatar to the Doctor Who site and found myself in geek heaven. Billboards touted the Doctor Who museum and the Sci-Fi shop where I immediately walked my avatar over to and started browsing. There was a perfect little K-9 I could buy that would follow me around, a Cyberman I could chat with, and best yet, a Tom Baker era long scarf I could purchase for a mere $10L for my avatar to wear. Having decided early on NOT to spend REAL money on FAKE items, I just stared at the plethora of costumes, weapons, and body types ready to be purchased that could turn my blonde bombshell into a Dalek or a Hobbit. There were other people here too, some dressed in Doctor Who attire, and some who looked like “normal” people browsing just like me. Notice how one’s idea of “normal” changes dependent on environment? I bravely walked up to one of the creators/builders of the site and peppered him with questions and chat’s that just said, “cool.” He was nice enough to show me the various Tardis consoles he had created (they took him 2 weeks to make) and gave me the nickel tour. Soon we were surrounded by a Dalek and a K-9, both were other people with nifty avatars who wanted in on the social outlet of nerdiness. The creator gave me my own package of Dalek avatars (for free) and my very own Tardis that would materialize around me anytime I teleported to a new world – just like the real one! Or, wait, the fake one on the TV show, but you know what I mean. Reality is relative in SL. Another person gave me “gestures” which were “cool” dance moves and music sound bites my avatar could now perform with the click of a button. My avatar was dancing to the FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR song and I was loving it!

Tipsy over the generous donations to my inventory I decided to call it a day for now, but come back and explore more worlds and give this SL a real chance to do what I believe it was always intended to: allow people to be imaginative and creative and share common interests in a social networking environment. I’m still not sold that I’ll make “real” friends in this fake world, or actually give much away about myself that isn’t already obvious as I run around dressed as a Dalek.

However, I’m waiting for the day I can visit the “Target” land and buy some Isaac Mizrahi clothes for both my avatar and myself (my real self) using real money in SL. Wouldn’t that be great? Just think of it, you could go to the store and walk down the virtual aisles instead of shopping in a 2 dimensional website with only text and pictures. That’s when I think SL will finally find its sea legs – when it can convince commerce of the huge 3D and real monetary potential. Listen up movie studios, go pay a programmer to make you a virtual studio lot where you can tout your latest movies, show SL specific special trailers, or house a virtual movie theater where guests can watch a film virtually. MTV – the opportunity to have REM play a concert in SL is real and happening with smaller indie bands as we speak – get in on the action early! The possibilities are endless and as long as SL continues to raise the bar in content and quality – it could have the potential to be bigger than the web. A real internet, in 3D with a more human element – scary or brilliant, you be the judge. For now, I’m content to fly around in my Dalek avatar costume over the Cherry Blossom trees of a virtual Washington D.C. Capitol Hill.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Coming soon...

to a comic shop (though it looks like a theater) near you!

Read here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another fandom uprising

I'll have more to say about this later, when I have some time and can craft a good, thoughtful post about it. Here is the link to the article:

Fans press Weinstein on "Fanboys"

A large contingent of 'Star Wars' fans are threatening a boycott of this weekend's release of "Superhero", a spoof of the genre by Craig Mazin, which is also being released by the Weinstein Company.

"Fanboys" has been scheduled then postponed for release numerous times, and is currently without a release date, or a final version. Essentially two versions of the film exist -- the original vision of the filmmakers, which included (and this isn't really a spoiler) the motivation for the group of friends to travel to Skywalker Ranch to see a cut of "The Phantom Menace" before it was to be released in theaters -- one of the friends has cancer. The Weinstein Company (and particularly Harvey) have felt that the cancer story makes the movie hard to market, and so has tested a version, with reshoots to excise the cancer (he's cured! no cancer!!) as part of the story.

What has happened as a result...well, go read the article. We'll have more later.

Friday, March 21, 2008

More Geek to Love

Shawna did a guest spot on Shaun O'Mac's TV Talk radio show/podcast yesterday, and he's invited her back to be on every Wednesday.

At 3 PM PDT, if you can't get enough of her, tune in to Shaun's show to listen to Shawna prattle on about whatever she wants. Shaun has other tv bloggers/columnists on the other days of the week, so you can turn in those days instead if you are sick of her.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From The Comic Geek - Not So Special FX

Newcomer writer Wayne Osborne and artist John Byrne pay homage to a time when Byrne meant something to comics. More on this story...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Blame Michael Moorcock...or Del Rey Give Moorcock the Howard Treatment Part One: The Personal Version

A few weeks ago, Del Rey released the first in a series of books collecting Michael Moorcock's definitive Elric saga. The collection will contain Moorcock's Elric stories in the order they were written/published and contain some great "bonus features" for long time fans of the character. I am one of those long time fans, so much so that I have had trouble deciding whether to write a "personal" essay about the release of the book that focuses on how important Elric/Moorcock is to me, or an article "merely" discussing the release of the new book.

I couldn't decide between the two. So, here is the first of the two essays -- the personal one.

The first words I ever read by Michael Moorcock were, "This is the tale of Elric before he was called Womanslayer, before the final collapse of Melniboné." It was 1983, the Fall semester of my 7th grade year, and a friend of mine and I were in a bit of a competition. I don't know when the "I can find stuff to read and play that you can't" competition with Mark Williams started, but I know that the Elric books were right in the middle of the competition.

By right in the middle, I mean somewhere between the "Christian found the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks" early salvo and the "Sweet Pickles Bus Proliferation" that ended our friendship. If you don't remember the Sweet Pickles Bus, watch the commercial below. The Sweet Pickles commercial starts at about second 20.

Looking at it now, the bus look kid of creepy as it drives up to the house. But back in the day, ordering about a dozen of these and having them sent to Mark's house seemed like the perfect way to get even with Mark for no longer being my best friend. Boy does that seem petty, but 7th graders aren't known for their mature ability to deal with relationships. I'm pretty sure that Mark and I were single handedly responsible for a policy change regarding whether kids were allowed to order these themselves over the phone or not. It really got ridiculous, especially on my end, but that is another story.

Returning to the tale at hand, Mark and I both shared a love of role playing games and we were both familiar with the awesome Bill Willingham illustration on the back of the fifth printing of the White Plume Mountain module. The illustration featured this cool looking albino with a black bladed sword, the black so deep it contained stars. It was quite striking to my 7th grade mind, but I had no idea what had inspired this representation of the blade "blackrazor" -- other than the fact that it was an item in the module.

But then Mark walked into our Algebra class with a copy of ELRIC OF MELNIBONE. He had searched high and low for the inspiration behind the Willingham cover, and he found it. He also made sure to show me how he was able to find the work of fantasy, a work much more badass than LORD OF THE RINGS. I immediately rushed out to my local used paperback store and purchased a collection of the entire Elric saga. I was struck by the image of this albino protagonist.

I didn't yet know what an antihero was, nor did I fully comprehend what the Greeks meant by Tragedy. As I read the books, I discovered the meaning of both. It was really remarkable and transformative, but not for the reasons one might expect. Yes, by 7th grade I'd read LORD OF THE RINGS, but other than that book my fantasy exposure was pretty limited. When I thought of fantasy, I thought of the Greek and Egyptian myths, and the stories of Sinbad. I hadn't read C.S. Lewis or Lloyd Alexander, those would come in the next year, my mind was wide open for a definition of what fantasy was. Moorcock provided that definition. Fantasy was social commentary, it was mournful, tragic, and Wagnerian. I loved every minute of it, and I still do.

That's why I'm so excited about the latest Elric release from Del Rey. Like they did with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, they are providing us with the Elric stories in wonderful editions that will let us read the stories in the order they were released. There's even the added bonus of the inclusion of some of Moorcock's defenses of his theories regarding what fantasy should be. The cover of the first edition, as well as the interior, is expertly illustrated by John Picacio. Take a look at the cover and interior below, they are quite excellent.

Excuse me while I sit back and relive the tragic tale of the last emperor of Melnibone.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens is Dead...

and one of the influences from young adulthood is gone. A bit more here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Alea Iacta Est: Ernest Gary Gygax ( July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)

For geeks like me, today is a day of great sadness. E Gary Gygax, co-creator with Dave Arneson of the Dungeons and Dragons game, died this morning at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

As I wrote, it is a sad day for me. After all, this man created a game that provided me with untold hours of entertainment, a game that introduced me to great literature (and horrible drivel), a game that helped me form life long friendships. Because of this man's creation, my life (and many others) were made better and more enjoyable. My prayers go out to Gary's family, especially his wife Gail.

Surfing the internet today and reading people write about Gary has been a very nice experience. It seems that today is the day when no gamers are fighting. The grognards and the noobs are consoling each other for the loss. It's nice, if not a little surprising. As one might guess from reading Matt Forbeck's entry on the topic, Gary Gygax was a bit of a controversial figure within the gaming community. Not because the community wasn't thankful for his contribution, rather because of his disdain for others in the field and his temper at those who continued his legacy. Gary didn't really like others "improving" on his creation. To be fair no one would expect him to, but those of us who have moved on from Gary's truly original creation to later "refinements" have had to endure venomous comments from Gary and his most ardent admirers. To be honest more from the admirers than from Gary, but Gary gave his share as well.

It seems that every gamer worth his or her salt has a Gary Gygax story, and I envy those that do their stories. I have no "when I met Gary story." Instead, I have a when I "almost" met Gary story.

You see...last April I was on a trip for work in eastern Wisconsin -- Racine to be specific, and I decided I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to watch a baseball game in Wrigley field. I am a huge Cubs fan, and there is no better place to watch baseball. Second, I wanted to tour Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the birthplace of gaming in America. Trust me. Whether you play modern boardgames, video games, collectible card games, or role playing games, the game you are playing likely has some connection to the gaming movement started in that small Wisconsin town.

So I drove to Lake Geneva and toured all of the locations that once housed the offices of TSR, the company that published D&D. Then finally, I stood in front of Gary's house and took about 10 pictures from across the street. It was relatively early in the evening and I contemplated walking up to the door and knocking, just to tell Gary how much entertainment his game has provided me over the past three decades. I walked up to the cars parked in front of the house (pictured below), but then I thought..."what if it is the wrong house?"

What if I walk up to the door, knock and ask for Gary and it's the wrong house? What if it's the right house? What kind of crazy stalker gamer knocks on a game designer's door uninvited?

So...I walked to the library, took a couple of pictures of the beautiful lake, walked around the small downtown area, and left. I was angry at myself for not emailing/message boarding Gary earlier, or later, and I promised myself that I would do so when I next traveled to the Wisconsin or Chicago area.

That day cannot come now.

God bless you Gary.

My group and I will have a moment of silence this weekend and I think we'll even do a small reading from one of the books you wrote. We all need to push through a little Gygaxian prose every now and then. Maybe I'll open up "Master of the Game," or read the introduction to the Player's Handbook (1st edition) one more time. That introduction made me feel like I was part of something special, even before I rolled my first die.