Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ursula K. LeGuin has Died and I Am Sad

Ursula K. LeGuin wrote many quality books, but she also wrote the book, as in my favorite book ever (that isn't illustrated, e.g. a graphic novel). Ms. LeGuin created the masterpiece, "The Lathe of Heaven," which I discovered in Jr. High and have enjoyed re-reading ever since. I found an old, tattered copy at a neighbor's moving-out garage sale back then and they sold it to me for a buck or two, stating, "You like sci-fi right? You'll like it." I read it and loved it. It's a story about a man whose dreams alter reality, but is about so, so much more. It's a masterpiece of work on our society, empathy, space aliens, racism, and love. It continues to be well ahead of its time and any film adaptations I've seen have pale in comparison to its genius.

I read other works by Ms. LeGuin (with many folk adoring, "The Left Hand of Darkness," which is a solid work for sure), but "The Lathe of Heaven," has always stuck with me, its dark vision of a depressing future that also holds a glimmer of hopeful optimism being sheer genius. Ms. LeGuin was 88 when she passed on January 22nd and her name should be listed with all the other amazing writers who imagined fantastical worlds and potential futures throughout history--Vonnegut, Clarke, Bradbury, Asimov, Dick, Orwell and etc.
Oh, and don't think I miss the fact when looking at those names she stands-out as a female. As a woman in science-fiction, writing in that genre back when that was especially uncommon for a woman it is clear she was also a pioneer with her strong feminist voice to go with her amazing imagination. She was as much an advocate as an author, and that makes her departure from this Earth sting even more. God, I'm so depressed by this news.

Television Tuesday: Black Lightning and American Crime Story

The New Two
Last week I watched two new shows premiere that are extremely different but touch upon some of the same concepts, interestingly enough. They were the brand-new series from the CW, "Black Lightning," and, "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace."

Real-World Problems meets Sci-Fi Superpowers
Before we see any superpowers used in the premiere we already have witness our protagonist, Jefferson Pierece, getting his daughter out of prison for protesting police brutality in their town of Freeport, arguing with her about the best way to achieve peace and equality, and being pulled-over by the police and threatened with getting shot whilst being manhandled all because he, "A black man in a suit and tie," supposedly, "Fit the profile," of someone who robbed a liquor store. It is extremely uncomfortable to watch and for some white audiences may be their first exposure to witnessing a distressingly realistic portrayal of something every black person has faced--and that is not an exaggeration, ask a friend of color to tell you about a time their were profiled by the police, a store, anyone, and they will have plenty of stories to share.

It isn't all depressing stuff though, we learn Jefferson Pierce is a well-respected Principal of a school that helps children from rough neighborhoods succeed, he's a family man, and he used to be a superhero named Black Lightning before promising his (now) ex-wife that he would give it up nine years ago before it killed him. A variety of factors cause Pierce to have to suit-up again to save his daughters from a powerful gang however and the show handles the super-heroics just as well as the topical discussions of racial discrimination and income inequality. Honestly, having seen some of, "Arrow," and the, "Flash," which this show thankfully has been stated to take place in its own Universe completely removed from those (for now unless some cross-over happens someday), this is one of the most mature and thoughtful takes on a world with superheroes I have seen. These are grown folk dealing with serious issues...and one of the characters happens to have lightning powers. I loved this show (and everyone else seems to as well) and unlike the aforementioned other CW hero shows which I've merely dabbled in, I plan to watch this new program religiously.

Fashion and Murder
"American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace," is the second season of the, "American Crime Stories," program on FX (Season 1 covered OJ Simpson) and the first installment establishes who will be two main focal points--the man who killed Versarce, Andrew Cunanan, and Versace himself. Cunanan is a sociopath and narcissist, obsessed with success, lying constantly, and unsure how to even properly express emotion. Darren Criss was passable on, "Glee," as Blaine but honestly never had much to even work with when it came to that well-adjusted and optimistic character. Here he plays Cunanan as the unhinged and unpredictable killer he was. 

I also want to point-out that Ricky Martin, as Versace's long-time partner Antonio D’Amico, is amazing with the pain and sorrow he brings to the role, surprising me with his acting talent considering some decades ago he was only known for singing disposable pop songs and shaking his bottom. Seriously though, he is a well of talent and showrunner Ryan Murphy continues to show he can get amazing and great performances out of folk you wouldn't expect (like Chaz Bono as a right-wing Trump-lover on, "American Horror Story," for example). The most distressing scene (besides Versace's murder) is when Martin as D'Amico has to deal with extremely homophobic and presumptuous statements from the police. It's a stellar show and as a side-note has amazing set-design too, with even those critical of the program admiring how gorgeous it is. I'm eager to watch more stellar performances from everyone as the story unfolds.

Unifying Themes

While one show is very much set in a fantastical world with super-powers and the other is a mostly-realistic retelling of actual events, they both deal with some very real issues. "Black Lightining," touches upon racial profiling, inequality, police brutality, poverty, and a whole bunch of social issues before any superpowers are even used, and the world of 1997 in, "American Crime Story," can feel strangely ancient and uncomfortably recent at the same time with its shockingly casual homophobia. Both new shows already have my attention due to how topical they are and because they're also really, really good. I'm excited to see the second episode of, "Black Lightning," later tonight and next episode of, "American Crime Story," tomorrow!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Metal Gear: Survive Looks Vaguely Fun, But Also Vapid and Soulless

I have made it clear I have an immense love for the video-game series, "Metal Gear Solid." Created by Hideo Kojima it was a genius melding of game-play, cinema, philosophy, and while at times messy or chaotic, still was amazing. Then Kojima left/was fired from the company he worked for over many years, Konami, and is now working on other new and weird stuff that I'm excited for. That said, Konami lost the man behind all the best parts of, Metal Gear Solid," so what are they going to do? If your answer was, "Make a game set in an alternate reality where you play soldiers who fight glowing zombies," then you're right and smoking whatever the folk at Konami are puffing on.

Besides the fact that it uses the graphical program and assets from, "Metal Gear Solid V," it really sounds like, "Metal Gear: Survive," has next-to-nothing to do with the Metal Gear games and they just are using the name in the hopes that will help with sales. It's a soulless and vapid cash-in, in other words. Folk who have played the beta admit it is fun, but it still ain't Metal Gear. Plus, it's going to have micro-transactions and require players always be connected to the internet, so that isn't garnering much goodwill either.

Look, if Konami wants to use the fancy technology Hideo Kojima developed for his games that is fully within their power as long as whatever contracts were signed previously allow such a thing to be done. That said, just because you're using the tech behind, "Metal Gear Solid V," and some of the imagery, that doesn't make your game, "Metal Gear Solid." The only thing that would truly make it, "Metal Gear Solid," is Kojima, and you apparently treated him horribly by all reports and he's gone.

"Metal Gear: Survive," may turn out to be good fun, even if it is just a big jumble of corporate concepts--"Zombies! Base-Building! Resource Gathering!" That said, it won't really be a Metal Gear game, and that is just kinda sad.

I Love my New Business Cards From The Gallery Collection!

First off, I shall offer my standard disclaimer that no one from The Gallery Collection reached-out to me, offered me anything, or even knows who I am. Now that you know there isn't any conflict of interest with this post, I wanted to share I absolutely love my new business cards from, "The Gallery Collection," and can't believe how good a deal I got for 200 of them!

Now then, my wife saw on one of her couponing websites how The Gallery Collection--which apparently is pretty known for making fancy folders, holiday/birthday cards, and such--was having a promotion where for just $5 shipped people could get 200 business cards. I've gotten business cards from an assortment of websites to promote my blog and they usually are inexpensive and of an okay quality. Therefore, when I designed a new card on The Gallery Collection's website I didn't expect anything too special via this promotion. Well, today I got my cards, a snazzy business card holder, a free business-type folder, and some sample greeting cards. It was a gorgeous package of goodies and I only had to pay a Lincoln for it (Lincoln's on the $5 bill, for those who don't get my slang). Check out both sides of my card and see how great it is:

The card is on the thickest and glossiest stock I've ever encountered (without paying a bunch of upcharges for a fancier card) and it just feels impressive in my hands. Plus, the business card holder they threw-in for free can hold a bunch of cards and will be handy when I'm at various conventions for handing-out my card without having a to keep a jumble of them in my pocket or a tote bag--plus I have a business card holder my wife gave me some years ago so it can hold cards I get from people and this one can be used to distribute my own!

I am so pleased with the quality of my business cards, the awesome extra stuff I got, and how much care The Gallery Collection put into such a well-priced offer. They could have done the bare minimum considering I paid so little but they went all-out. I for sure am going to be a repeat customer and encourage anyone else looking for quality printed supplies to check them out too.

Disclaimer: Again, The Gallery Collection did not pay me to make this post or request I do so, I just really love my cards! That said, I am going to email them and tell them how happy I am!

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Upcoming Micro Con Looks Like a Fun Weekend Activity!

This Sunday from 11AM-3PM the good folk at STL Comics will be having a their latest Micro Con at the Holiday Inn Airport West (located at 3400 Rider Trail S, Earth City, MO 63045) from 11AM-3PM. I would say this sounds like quite the fun weekend activity and best of all, it's totally free!

If you're wondering what a micro con is, it happens to be precisely what the name sounds like, a comic convention but micro-sized. Sometimes big huge conventions can be fun, but imposing. You've got to deal expensive parking fees (parking is free here as well), it takes forever to see everything, and you're exhausted after hours upon hours of walking a massive convention center. A Micro Con like what STL Comics is doing is a great way to just chill out and spend a couple hours checking out some cool comic and toy vendors. Big conventions can be immense fun, but sometimes on a lazy Sunday afternoon a nice smaller and relaxed event like this Micro Con can be perfect--plus as I mentioned, it is free! I look forward to attending Sunday and encourage anyone in the area to do so as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 2018 Links for the Middle of the Cold, Cold Month

So Cold, So Very Cold
It is the middle of January, and therefore many of us toward the North of the globe are cold and surrounded by anywhere from a dusting to foot-upon-foot of snow. Let's try and distract ourselves from icicles forming on our face with some links, shall we?

Stuff to Read
I'm always intrigued by stuff that is super-popular regionally but unheard of or basically ignored outside of the place where said thing is super popular. Like, how Football is huge in the United States and of almost zero interest to the rest of the world. With that in mind, I was fascinated by this article about an iconic anime that never gained popularity outside Japan known as, "Sazae-san," but still is huge there.

I loved this article about diversity in comics which features interviews with cool publishers like Saint Louis' own Lion Forge.

I adored the video-game, "Theme Hospital," so much back in the day and now there are two different developers working on spiritual sequels! I most likely will want to try both Project Hospital as well as Two Point Hospital.
John Ridley is a stellar creator--be it comic-books or film--so I'm eager for his, "Other history of the DC Universe," which will focus on minority characters and not shy away from less admirable moments of history.

Due to not having a bottomless amount of free time I've missed out on all of the generally well-reviewed DC superhero television shows. I've heard so much positive buzz about the new, "Black Lightning," show however I made sure to DVR it and plan to carve out an hour to give it a viewing. I mean, even The AV Club loved it, and pleasing them can be a hard feat to pull-off.

Image's Skybound sent retailers a preview copy of the upcoming comic, "Oblivion Song," but it is actually the entire first six issues in a trade paperback form--so like 8 months before that would normally hit market. This is either an ingenious way to show retailers what kind of comic they are in for so they can recommend it to readers.
C.B. Cebulski
Marvel's new Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski raised a lot of ire when he admitted that while working at Marvel in one position he also submitted work under an alias of Akira Yoshida. So he lied, and basically used an Asian name to sound more, "Exotic." Folk were upset but it seems to have mostly blown-over much to Marvel's delight. However, he recently tweeted out advice for artists who want to get noticed by publishers and advised them to always use their real name. That's some irony right there.

I do not like Taylor Swift, at all, having stated she is in fact a bully. Therefore, I appreciate this article about 10 female artists you can like instead of Taylor Swift with the bonus element that they are not terrible people!

Lastly, I just wanted to remind everyone that in the past two weeks it has come-out our President paid a porn star hush-money and called other nations made-up of black people a, "Shit-hole." One of these two things alone would have taken down any other President, but we clearly live in an alternate reality now where this is just a normal month in an America, "Led," by Donald Trump.

Nice and Toasty
Hopefully my assortment of interesting things from around the internet helped you no longer feel so chilly. If not, go sit by a space heater so that you can keep your thermostat at a reasonable level but make whatever room you are currently in feel warm. It both saves energy and money, plus you won't freeze to death!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Eternal Thirst of Dracula #1," Review/ A Killer Concept and Amazing Art Always Impress

Telling Stories
Update: The creators of the comic reached-out to me and expressed thanks for my review, but also asked what I thought about the color-work as I didn't mention it and they are curious of my thoughts. I would say the colors are great, with the violent scenes full of blood really, "Popping," and the more quiet moments having a less bright appearance as if to let us readers know things are mellow, but soon won't be! So yeah, the colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini are gorgeous as well.

When you are telling stories one of the most important things you can have going for you is a great concept. Even the best-written story may fail to impress if you're simply telling a yarn about a how a guy went to the corner store and bought some milk. Friend of the blog Mike Wolfer is of course a man whose work I've greatly enjoyed following because he almost always provides a great story with a cool concept, be it his stellar, "Widow," work, his creations he did at Avatar Press, or his latest comic I just read the first issue of, "The Eternal Thirst of Dracula."

In a written foreward to this issue Wolfer hints that the idea of the comic is that perhaps Bram Stroker's famous book, "Dracula," was in fact a true story, but it lied at the end when it claimed Dracula died. The comic itself then covers how perhaps Dracula survived and moved to a far away tropical island where few would suspect a resident of cold and mountainous Europe would go. This takes us to the main story about a film crew known for shooting B-movies that always in need of funding for their projects. A mysterious recluse with his own private island is interested in providing money for a new movie...and you see where this is going!
The film crew has little idea what dangers they will face.
I'll be honest and say a lot of this first issue is a whole bunch of set-up, but thankfully it is fascinating set-up. It isn't until toward the last few pages we see just how dangerous and powerful Dracula is plus get a surprising reveal about another character, but thanks to all the storytelling pieces being put in place in this issue I feel the twist at the end of this issue hits all the harder.  I've got more than enough trust in Wolfer's writing abilities to know he's going to continue to give us a great story, but the greedy part of me wishes this were a double-sized premiere issue so that we could get some more follow-up to the great climax at the end. Then again I can't be too upset however, because this comic has absolutely gorgeous artwork.

So far I've of course complimented Mike Wolfer a bunch because I love his work, but artist Roy Allan Martinez absolutely kills it on this book. His drawing style makes the jungle feel so lush and dense I could feel the heat suffocating me just by looking at the page. His monstrous characters we see revealed at the end of this issue are terrifying and imposing, and of course the lithe female vampires that populate the island are as sexy in shape as they are hideous in bloodlust. Mike Wolfer is a great writer, but if he had shit the bed and turned in a rare terrible script this comic would still be a must-read thanks to its artwork--thankfully Wolfer kept the metaphorical bed clean so that we get a comic that has both a killer concept and amazing art, which always impresses. Plus, the fantastic lettering by (also friend of the blog) Natalie Jane is just some amazing icing on the cake!
I can't wait for issue #2!
"The Eternal Thirst of Dracula," has to do a lot of setting-up in regards to its plot, but Wolfer's great writing and Roy Allan Martinez's jaw-dropping artwork still resulted in a comic I loved, so I eagerly give this 5 out of 5 stars. You can snatch yourself up a copy of this comic on eBay, or support the publisher of the book, American Mythology, and buy this issue from their own store.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My Visit to the January 2018 Toyman Show Was Extremely Fun!

As I've made apparent from a number of posts I greatly enjoy going to the Toyman shows and I was able to attend it again today! Chris, "Toyman," McQuillen was kind enough to let me visit to cover the event and I also had the pleasure of chatting with him a bit. I asked him how he gets so many great vendors and he told me that what he's found is that there many collectors out there who don't realize how much stuff they have, one day they say, "I've got way too much stuff," and then they get a table and enjoy being a vendor. Speaking of vendors, boy were there plenty with awesome stuff! Today I was able to acquire a Funko I've always desired for a great price...
I bought the Walgreens Green Goblin Chase Funko which is a, "Chase," because it has a gorgeous metallic sheen.
Also, I had the pleasure of speaking with the great folk from STL Comics and trading some stuff for a Funko of the Philly Phanatic  them, a cool figure to have because he just looks so zany.
Lastly, I was pleased to trade one Funko I had brought with me for this awesome one of Bullseye, the dog who is the mascot for Target.

Besides toys there is always a stellar assortment of comics for sale as well, and I was super-excited to get...
Some copies of, "Teen Titans #12," which feature the first appearance of, "The Batman Who Laughs," and is quite the hot book right now. I got enough to keep one for myself and some others to sell to friends.
"Marvel Spotlight #28," which is the first solo Moon Knight series. I was stoked to get this from the good folk at The Comic Grind who let me swap some other comics of mine for it.

The Toyman show is always fun and I was very pleased to find so much great stuff this time. Thanks to Chris' awesome events I  It is extremely fairly priced and always full of awesome comics, toys, and general fascinating pop-culture ephemera. If you come for general admission at 9AM it is only $5 (with kids 16 and under free) or you can get in as an early-bird at 8AM for $12--which is something I for sure would recommend if you want prime first-pickings. The next one is Sunday, March 11th, and I plan on being there without a doubt!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Flashback Friday: Two Creators with Four Comics I Keep Coming Back To

Books I Keep Re-Reading
Believe it or not, I've read a lot of comics over these years (shocking, I know). With all the comic-books I have read there are certain ones I find myself always wanting to go back and re-read even if my pile of new stuff which I need to catch-up on continues to grow. Therefore I wanted to share some of the comics I find I keep going back to every once in awhile to read and enjoy because I loved them so much. Interestingly enough, there are two creators who each did two comic series (so four total) that I find really stick out in mind. While there are a number of comics I love to revisit every now and then it is notable that these two gents have more than one book that really stay in my mind. Therefore, I wanted to talk about these two guys--Grant Morrison and Charlie Huston--and their two books.
Grant Morrison's New X-Men
Morrison arguably provided the X-Men story for his run on the book. I think it is the best X-Men run ever, which lovers of Chris Claremont's stuff consider offensive, but I stand by my statement. Morrison came on the book and immediately did huge things like having the mutant island of Genosha be destroyed, introduced a drug called, "Kick," that was actual a sentient virus, took Magneto to his logical extreme endpoints, killed Jean Grey (who stayed dead until recently), gave us the new character Fantomex, made mutants more of a large minority population as opposed to  a small number of people in the world, and otherwise was amazing.

Morrison's run was so incredible Marvel had to basically undo most of it as soon as it ended through things like, "House of M," reducing the mutant population, trying to re-write Magneto's genocidal rampage in the book as being done by a psychic force known as, "Xorn," even though the whole point of, "Xorn," was that it was a fake personality Magneto posed as to infiltrate the X-Men. You know, dumb stuff like that because Morrison's run was too wild to let most of his changes stand. I still crack open the big omnibus collecting his entire run that I have to enmesh myself in Morrison's amazing run.
Charlie Huston's Moon Knight
I wasn't that familiar with Moon Knight some years ago. Then I picked up a hardcover at Borders (I told you this was awhile ago) that collected the first arc of Charlie Huston's run on, "Moon Knight." The six issues containing his writing and David Finch's artwork introduced me to a hero who was fascinatingly unhinged. A man who might have a serious psychiatric issue or legitimately have gained powers from an Egyptian God. Someone who either had multiple personality disorder, was simply pretending to be other people to fight crime, or maybe actually, "Became," the other men he would sometimes act like.

It was a revelation and resulted in me seeking out all the old, "Moon Knight," comics collected in the Marvel Essential's books, only to find that they had aged pretty well (prevalent sexism and racism of the era aside) and Huston had expertly drawn from these old stories for his amazing run on Moon Knight that sadly only went 13 issues before he handed the reigns to Mike Benson--who did a solid job, but it wasn't the same. Huston's Moon Knight run was stellar and I would say as good as the stuff by Doug Moench (who created the character), resulting in Huston's run being my favorite modern take on Moon Knight.
Grant Morrison's The Filth
Arguably my favorite comic of all time, this 13-issue mini-seires by Morrison with art by Chris Weston and colors by Gary Erskine is a masterpiece of surreal mind-fuckery. It's sort-of about a secret society that keeps the world safe--"Status Quorum,"--but it also involves a talking Russian chimp who killed Kennedy, injectable personalities, comic-books powered by living ink, a hyper-fertile porn star with amnesia, a miniature planet Earth made-up of little robots, the world's largest cruise ship that descends into an anarchic chaos, and so many other ideas that it makes my head spin to this day trying to wrap my mind around everything in this comic.

I always make sure I own two copies of, "The Filth," so that I have a copy to read and one to give to a friend who I think will appreciate its bizarre wonder. It isn't an easy book to get into at first with all the strange things going on and it can be confusing as Hell, but by the time you finish it...you're still a little overwhelmed. After you read it for the second or third time however you really begin to appreciate the book.
Charlie Huston's Bullesye: Perfect Game
I am probably one of a handful of people who even remember this book existing. It was a Marvel Knights two-issue mini-series that doesn't really even take place in continuity and focuses on a character I mostly dislike--Bullseye--playing a sport I honestly don't care much about--Baseball. However, Huston is such an amazing writer he creates probably the only comic with Bullseye that I've ever read where I maybe, just maybe, get some of the character's motivation. The general idea is that Bullseye knows he an amazing assassin and he's grown bored from the lack of challenge he faces. Then a lowball offer comes in for him to kill a star baseball player who didn't throw a game and cost some bad people a lot of money. Bullseye takes the gig and then...disappears for a year.

You see, Bullseye assumes a new identity and becomes a pitcher for a baseball team. He does all this because he wants to kill this target in the middle of a baseball game with a well-thrown ball so that the stadium full of people all see it and gasp. Bullseye is such an empty narcissist he's willing to take a poorly-paying assassination, work his way up through the minor-leagues, and wait until he finally faces this other player at bat just so he will get some twisted form of recognition from a large crowd. The story is narrated by an old baseball-memorabilia collector to an unseen listener and it gives the whole story an air of, "Is this true or some old man's ramblings?" It is weird, wild, and over just two issues results in a comic that I adore despite it being about a character I loathe (Bullseye is almost always just boringly evil) in a sport I consider slow and boring (which in the Saint Louis region makes people clutch their pearls and gasp in shock when you say you don't care about the Cardinals). Just an amazing weird comic you can find for dirt cheap on eBay as nobody else cares about it besides possibly me.

Always Worth a Revisit
There we go, four books by two creators that I keep coming back to. This was fun and maybe in the future I should talk about other comics by more folk I always enjoy rereading.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Let's Check How Donny Cates' Marvel Books Are Doing in Terms of Entertainment!

Donny Cates
I am of course a big fan of Donny Cates. I first discovered his work when he and Geoff Shaw teamed-up to make, "Buzzkill," a comic about a superhero who gets his powers from doing drugs...and is trying to get sober. I found it to be such a fascinating read during a brief time I worked with teenagers who had substance abuse problems I would actually use the comic as an educational tool. After, "Buzzkill," Cates has had smash-hits like, "God Country," and, "Redneck," and recently got a gig writing some comics for Marvel. "Doctor Strange," re-launched with an issue #381 (yeah, it was a victim of the stupid, "Marvel Legacy," numbering) and Cates assumed the reigns of, "Thanos," with issue #13. Since then three total issues of, "Doctor Strange," have been released and two of, "Thanos." Are they any good? Let's examine them!

Doctor Strange #381-#383
Doctor Strange has been forcefully retired from magic and is now a veterinarian. 
Cates take on, "Doctor Strange," begins with the surprising reveal that Loki has become the Sorcerer Supreme and Stephen Strange is now a veterinarian due to having let his medical license (for working with humans, at least) lapse. It isn't until the most recent issue we learn Loki assumed the role quite by chance and may have some nefarious plans to gain control over all magic--or does he want to do good? It is left up to us to determine that, but in the process Stephen Strange has been trying to get some new magic powers and we've had it revealed a Marvel character known as, "The Sentry," isn't dead.

It's a really fun read so far and having picked up these three issues just to check the series out I'm thinking I would like to continue following it due to being both intrigued by the plot and loving the humor. Also, artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta provides some stellar imagery, from scenes of everyday life, to magical realms, or a visit to Asgard. "Doctor Strange," is a prime example of Cates bringing his talent to a book and knocking it out of the park making this an easy 5 out of 5 stars (for the three issues so far).

Thanos #13-#14
Written by Cates with art by his longtime collaborator, Geoff Shaw, this book looks gorgeous because Shaw is immensely talented and there is some interesting plot-stuff going on, but I didn't like this quite a much as, "Doctor Strange." It has some elements I really enjoyed, such as a hilarious future-Ghost Rider with cosmic powers who is quite the smart-mouth--that's cool. It also cleverly features Thanos coming face-to-face with his future self who has, "Won," and destroyed all life in the Universe, only to realize he is bored. That said, it feels like the book just moves kind of slowly and faces the struggle of many books about Thanos--namely, keeping him interesting can be hard. Weirdly enough this makes me think of the Punisher too.

Thanos is a God and the Punisher is just a man, but they remind me of each other in that they are kinda bland characters without a strong supporting cast. Both are more like destructive forces of nature than people/Gods and my favorite stories about either of them have often featured a strong group of folk to play off of. Cates, "Thanos," is a comic which has this new cosmic Ghost Rider but then is simply two Thanos...so two dull characters interacting with each other. The result is a comic that is by no means bad, but lacks an amazing, "Wow," element outside of Shaw's always jaw-dropping artwork. I'm willing to bet this book is going to lead somewhere good, but right now it is a very solid (if not amazing) 3 out of 5 stars for the two issues that have come out.

A Promising Beginning!
Donny Cates is a great writer and a really nice guy. I'm happy he is blowing-up and having so much success from his humble start as, "The dude who wrote that cool, 'Buzzkill,' comic." I am super-impressed with his, "Doctor Strange," and intrigued by, "Thanos." It'll be exciting to see what the future holds for each book!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Reminder: Stabbity Bunny #1 is in Stores Tomorrow

I just wanted to remind everyone that the comic, "Stabbity Bunny," which I loved the first two issues of (thanks to advance-review access), and was honored to win a signed copy of in a contest thanks to providing the name and breed of a dog appearing in future issues, will be in stores tomorrow! While it was previously self-published this is the big release from new publisher Scout Comics and it is already sold-out at multiple online retailers.

You might be able to get your shop to hold you a copy if they had the foresight to order it, or you you can always try eBay, although its trending for well above cover price there already too. Long story short, I loved this comic and want to encourage everyone else to check it out--plus I'm kinda vain and want everyone reading it when Humphrey the pug is introduced in the near future so I can brag about my contribution!

Monday, January 8, 2018

So, Comics at the Local Newsstand is Basically Dead, Yeah?

Back when you had to walk two miles to the newsstand for your comics, both ways uphill!
Hey, all you older folk, remember the days back when you would go to the local newsstand and comic books would be there? Hell, I'm not super-old and even I, as someone who lived in some small towns, have fond memories of going to a store in town which was full of newspapers, magazines, and comics. Over time that seemed to change though and now comics are mainly found at stores dedicated to just them as opposed to also at the newsstand, which seems to be not necessarily dying out, but having to evolve. 

Places I remember going to full of newsprint now have moved more in other various directions.  One in Upstate New York I liked getting comics from now is a bit more focused on being a tobacco specialty shop that also has an assortment of sodas and alcohols. Back when I lived in that region the guy in charge of ordering magazines and comics had really good taste and that is how I got into some of the weirder Marvel titles you wouldn't necessarily expect at a newsstand where one would normally expect just, "X-Men," as opposed to my beloved, "Moon Knight." That guy went on to become a full-time DJ however and the store now--as I said--is more of a place to get a newspaper, a soda, and a specialty cigar.
The only B&N within Saint Louis located in a mall, the others are just by it.
There was one last beacon of newsstands selling comics that was a big deal--some years ago Barnes and Noble and DC inked a pact to sell comics on the B&N newsstands. It was cool idea, and one that now apparently is dead. Whenever I would go to Barnes and Noble I'd see some DC books and other random comics (an, "Archie," maybe), but I guess that day is gone. I suppose that may very well be the final nail in the coffin for comics on the newsstand, eh?

Am I wrong? Does anyone who reads the blog have a newsstand-type store that inexplicably has a massive comic selection that brings them immense joy and reading pleasure? If so please tell me because that sounds really cool. I mean, besides that place in my little city, a town over there was another big newsstand place that didn't change much and the last time I visited it had shut down and become some random organic food store. That was depressing.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A New Ponzi Scheme is Sweeping Facebook and Has Me Worried For My Friends

Old Scam, New Look
If you're on Facebook you've probably seen a handful of friends posting about how they, "Invested," $100 and after recruiting other friends to do so as well made $800. Whether its being called a, "Blessing Loom," "Gifting Cricle," "Money Pool," or something else this is an old scam with a new sheen that will eventually leave a lot of people out their money. These will declare they aren't pyramid schemes despite looking exactly like a pyramid and they actually kind of aren't--to be a pyramid scheme you are supposed to theoretically be investing in a product whilst recruiting people, be it leggings (LuLaRoe), over-priced sex toys (Pure Romance), or some other multi-level marketing scam. These are just promises of making money for doing nothing besides getting other people to make money--e.g. a Ponzi scheme.

Ponzi Scheme?
With a Ponzi scheme you recruit people to put money into a pool, who then recruit other people to put in money, and once enough people have joined you get paid. The problem is nothing is ever actually invested in and the only source of income is new people joining. You are basically, "Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul," and the issue is eventually if people quit joining you run out of, "Peters," and just have a bunch of, "Pauls," wondering where their money went. It's a Ponzi Pyramid and it always collapses at some point.

If you have friends trying to talk to you about taking part in anything that essentially promises, "Something for nothing," outside of a supposedly, "Small investment," and recruiting other friends, then run, run as fast as you can far, far away--and make sure you friends know what they are doing is dangerous, illegal, and could leave them broke. I'm trying to warn my friends and advise you do too.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Funko Friday: What Are Funko Pops and How Do You Start Collecting Them?

New Segment!
On Fridays I will sometimes do my, "Flashback Friday," posts and other times I will do my, "Film Friday," articles, with those two themes intersecting off-and-on as well. In the past months I have gotten more and more into Funko Pops however and thought it might be fun to have another occasional segment, "Funko Friday," where I discuss various subjects relating to Funko Pops. With that in mind, for the debut segment I wanted to help explain to people just what Funko Pops are and how you can start buying and collecting them.

Funko-What?
A Funko Pop is a figurine that generally has a little body and big head. There are a variety of figures that are within the Funko company and go by different names (Dorbz, VYNL), but the main Funko Pop line is by far the most popular. Funko is a company that has actually been around since 1998 but didn't grow immensely in popularity until maybe a half-decade ago, with 2005 arguably being an important point in its history when the company was sold to an investment company (ACON). AFter this Funko started to widely expand its scope to a big range of marketing opportunities. Signing deals with everyone from Disney, to video-game companies, comic-book publishers, and basically anything you can make a fun little figurine out of.

There will at times be Funko Pops exclusive to certain stores, conventions, or just generally limited. Some Funkos are mass-produced but eventually are no longer made and known as, "Vaulted." Another interesting concept is that sometimes a regular Funko will have a rarer version with a slight difference known as a, "Chase." For example it might feature a character holding a different object, with a different facial marking, etc. These, "Chase," Funkos usually are produced at a rate of about 1-in-6 and can be highly sought-after by collectors.
Some people are very specific in the kind of Funko they collect, seeking out anything related to a property and nothing else. Other folk collect a wide-range of Funkos and might just have whatever they are into as a part of their collection. There are individuals who prefer to just look for/buy chase variants, and there really is no, "Wrong," or, "Right," way to collect Funko, you just seek-out and buy what you like!  If you like to keep your Funkos in their box that's cool, but if you're an out-of-box kinda guy/gal that's great too. If you're only into, "Rick and Morty," and, "My Little Pony," you can just get those, it is about collecting what you love!

There are numerous clubs and online communities dedicated to Funko, with many people selling or trading their finds with others. There is often a strong hatred among these gatherings for, "Flippers," or people who go out and buy sought-after Funko Pops for the sole purpose of selling them at a profit. Everyone's definition of a, "Flipper," can vary though and I've met some people who camp-out in front of a store eager to buy the latest rare Funko and have found them to be perfectly nice folk, so I hold no ill-will towards anyone who buys a Funko in order to sell it for a small bit of extra cash--my opinion seems to be in a bit of a minority however. Speaking of buying Funko Pops however, where can you get the darn things?

How Do I Buy a Funko Pop?
Because they have become so popular you now can actually arguably find Funko Pops more places than you can't! Toys R Us, Gamestop, Hot Topic, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, even some 7-11 convenience stores carry Funko Pops and many of them will have ones exclusive to their store-brand, which can be a headache for collectors. After all, if you're excited for the upcoming, "Black Panther," movie you're gonna be a tad annoyed at how you have to go to certain stores (or use eBay) in order to get all the figures that tie-in with the movie (and good luck finding the, "Chase," variants easily)! A lot of people enjoy the search for Funko Pops however and the thrill of finding a rare/vaulted Funko Pop or a, "Chase," Funko, "In the wild," AKA just sitting at at store.

Basically, if you want to get into collecting Funko Pops you just need to go to a store and buy one you want. Should you desire not having to check countless places for a particular Funko you might want then the internet is a stellar resource. There are three ways I feel are, "The best," for buying that specific Funko you want.

Funko-Focused Websites
If you want to buy Funko that are currently out or even pre-order some that will be released soon, I have found a variety of Funko-focused online toy stores that I've either had good experiences with or heard positive things about. Many of these will often offer a discount off the usual price of a Funko or run deals where Funko Pops with a damaged box can be had cheaply. Also, some even will sell you a guaranteed, "Chase," for a slight mark-up or claim that if you order a Funko with a, "Chase," version you'll have a 1-in-6 chance of it being the rarer version. Stores that I recommend include:

The Official Funko Shop: The official online store for Funko has a wide-selection and even some Funko Shop exclusives, but don't expect any amazing discounts. Also, I've found shipping to be a bit slow, but as this is the actual website of the company there are often things you'll only be able to find here.

CNS Toys: This store is more focused on pre-orders I have found, but when it comes to pre-ordering Funkos they often have the best prices! They will sell guaranteed, "Chases," and are known for their stellar customer service which I personally can attest too--I messaged them on Facebook when it was Christmas Eve and they actually wrote me back within an hour! If you're going to pre-order a Funko I would recommend CNS Toys without a doubt.

Chrono Toys: No pre-ordering here, but Chrono Toys has a wide-range of stock and also will sell some discounted Funko Pops. I've heard stellar things about their customer service as well and have observed for some of their Funkos on sale they offer free shipping which is always appreciated. Should you desire to buy a Funko that is currently in-stock this is generally the site I would point you to. Also, I have a coupon-code for 5% off your first order, all you need to do is enter, "TNR5," at check-out and you're good to go!

7 Bucks a Pop: If you're after Funko Pops that are dramatically marked-down in price or you like to buy damaged boxes or even Funko without boxes, this is the place. 7 Bucks a Pop is also known for their extremely inexpensive Funko Pop Protectors which are bought in bundles and (before shipping) are only 49 cents each! If you like discounted Funkos or need some cheaper protectors this is the site for you!

Freddy's Box: This site also does pre-orders and has a range of in-stock Funko Pops, but is more known for their mystery boxes. I'll discuss mystery boxes more in a future post so I don't have much to say about Freddy's Box right now but will explore their mystery offerings more in the future.

Fugitive Toys: This store offers pre-orders as well as in-stock Funko and I've heard good things, but honestly I've found their pre-order prices to be higher than other websites and I find their site a little difficult to navigate and ugly. They still are a quality store however and a great option if they have something in-stock nobody else does.

Pop in a Box: Another store with pre-orders as well as in-stock options, but this one actually won't let you specifically buy a, "Chase," instead having you pay their standard price for a regular Funko and letting you know there is a 1-in-6 chance you might get a, "Chase." They also offer the option of buying a monthly mystery Funko, which again is a subject I'll go more in-depth about in a future post. If you use my referral code of DAVID-R1PF you can get 20% off your first purchase, if you so choose.

Phone Apps
If you've got a smart-phone then you've got a way to easily check your local area for Funko Pops. I've heard many stories of folk finding great Funko Pops through searching apps like LetGo and OfferUp for other local collectors selling stuff. Also, many people love Facebook's Marketplace when it comes to buying as well as trading. Plus, I  have sung the praises of Mercari, which has a big Funko community and gives new users plenty of coupons (use my referral code ENMPXA when you sign-up for an easy $10 off a purchase of $20 or more). Seriously though, as long as you've got a smart-phone in your hand you can basically look for Funko Pops in a variety of apps at anytime.

eBay
If all else fails, go to eBay. As long as you're willing to shell-out some serious cash you can usually find even the rarest and most expensive Funko Pops as well as cheap common ones. Just always check the Feedback of sellers because the last thing you want is someone to pack your Funko poorly and it arrives in a busted-up box!

A Lot Was Covered
This was a big post where a lot was covered! I hope if you didn't know much about Funko Pops you found this helpful and if you did already know a lot about Funko I still told you something new. I look forward to doing more occasional, "Funko Friday," posts as time goes on.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Exiles," is the First New(ish) Marvel Book I'm Excited About in a Long While

Marvel just announced  that with it having been about 9 years since we've had an, "Exiles book," and even longer since we had one that didn't get cancelled within six issues, they are going to have a new, "Exiles," comic! The writer will be Saladin Ahmed and the artist is Javier Rodriguez, so a solid team. For those who don't know what, "Exiles," is/was, it existed as an X-Men-ish comic where a cast of mostly-mutants found themselves traveling to a variety of alternate dimensions. These adventures involved them usually having a random task they needed to solve for that world before going on to the next one (think, "Sliders," or, "Quantum Leap," but with X-Men). Anyways, it is coming back now and will feature a team led by, "Blink," who spent a good deal of time as an, "Exile," back in the day.

As someone who love alternate-universe tales and has always gotten a kick out of seeing various parts of the Marvel Multiverse I loved the original comic back when it came out in 2001 under Judd Winick and then a variety of writers both good and terrible. There was also a short-lived run in 2009 under Jeff Parker that fizzled out quickly and was cancelled within six-issues. I don't know if the new book is going to (tentatively) be an ongoing comic or a limited series, but I'm just happy to see a new(ish) Marvel book I'm actually excited for.
I wasn't excited for the re-launch of, "Runaways," under Rainbow Rowell but of course love it now, and I'm enjoying the current, "Moon Knight," comic but that wasn't really new considering we seem to have had a Moon Knight comic coming-out nearly constantly with just the occasional few-month gap ever since Charlie Huston's phenomenal run on the character some years ago. Therefore, we've not had a new book for me to get pumped about reading in some time from Marvel.

I mean, even calling, "Exiles," a new book is pushing it as it is kind a re-launch, albeit one that took 9 years to happen. Still, the fact I'm at least intrigued and eager to see a team of mutants explore various realities of the Marvel Universe is a good thing. I just hope this is good and doesn't have weird, "Marvel Legacy," numbering which seems to confuse potential readers and drive them away moreso than drawing them in.