Happy Free Comic Book Day 2015!

Hey, folks. May 2nd was the annual Free Comic Book Day. Basically, you go to a participating shop and get a bag of free samplers (and buy anything else that looks interesting), all while enjoying whatever other promotions are going on. Fantastic Comics is only a short BART ride away, but I was kind of on the fence about attending. Then I found out Gail Simone was going to be there, which was an insta-YES condition. I I left early, assuming I’d be able to beat the line. Turns out everyone else had the same idea.

Yeah, I should’ve left earlier. It took an hour and fifteen minutes to get inside, but it went by fast. Everyone was in high spirits, particularly those who’d just seen Avengers: Age of Ultron. The kids ahead of me were debating who’d win in a fight between Goku and Superman (Seriously?! I remember high school lunch hours focused about that exact topic over a decade ago.), while some guys nearby were getting their Xenoblade Chronicles 3D on. The couple standing behind me even offered to share some pizza, but I declined. Between my DSLR, backpack, and Italian phrasebook (yes, I’m still working on that), I don’t think I could’ve juggled a freshly-baked slice.

I took the opportunity to take photos of the few – but quite awesome – cosplayers in attendance. I feel uncomfortable taking photos of people, though. I’m awkward enough around others as it is; How do you just walk up to someone as say, “Hey, you look awesome, may I take your picture?” without sounding like some kind of creepy stalker? Seriously, that’s the last thing I want; even when I’m doing beach photography, I wait until everyone is out of the frame. After taking these photos, I made sure to promise that I’d send copies to them just as a record of the event. Not sure if they believed me, but they were good sports. Check these out:

Things stayed upbeat and organized inside the store as well. The flow and layout was simple: the line was kept off to the side as much as possible, then directed to the shelves of comics towards the back. That way, customers could look at/consider purchasing interesting comics while waiting to reach the free stuff at the table in the corner. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety; I’m not a hardcore comic book fan by any means – I’m far more into literature and games – but the selection was impressive. I ended up buying a copy of Secret Six #1 and an exclusive Swords of Sorrow print by Kate Leth, then getting into another line that was reserved for meeting Gail Simone.

It was totally worth the wait. She – and her husband – were incredibly nice and gracious. A lot of folks could’ve just autographed stuff and called it a day, but they actually spoke with fans  – someone in front of me took the time to show off all of his superhero-related tattoos – the entire time. I wonder how many of these signings/conventions/etc. they attend every year. I promised myself that I wouldn’t geek out too much, but I ended up babbling a little bit anyway. I’m awkward enough when it comes to regular conversation; what was I going to one of the most famous comic book writers in existence? I settled on a handshake, and thanking her for awesome writing, and how inspirational she is. I even managed to get a photo:

After that, I’m pretty sure I’d been standing there too long. I’m just one random guy, after all. There were plenty of other fans waiting. I collected everything she autographed, gave both Gail and her husband a final thank you, and left. I felt relieved to be out of there – crowded places are not my thing – but sad that I couldn’t stay longer. I nursed my regrets by going next door to Half Price Books and stocking up on a few things. I also walked to University Press Books by the campus (yesterday was also Independent Bookstore Day) and spent an hour looking over old texts. By the time I got home, my Free Comic Book Day haul included:

Autographed by Gail Simone:

Comic Book Samplers:

  • Attack On Titan by Kodansha Comics
  • Street Fighter: Super Combo Special by UDON
  • Mega Man & Sonic the Hedgehog: Worlds Unite Prelude by Archie Action
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender/Plants vs Zombies/Bandette by Dark Horse Comics
  • Secret Wars #0 by Marvel
  • Pokemon X/Y by Perfect Square
  • Teen Titans Go/Scooby Doo & Super Friends Team-Up by DC
  • Cleopatra In Space by Scholastic
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by IDW
  • Ten Year Celebration by Boom Studios
  • Simpsons Free-For-All by Bongo Comics.

Note: Photos of the above can be seen here.

Books:

Man, I’ve got a lot to read…

 

Selling Vintage Comic Books. Help?

Hey, folks. This is just a little behind-the-scenes post. I found a stash of a relative’s old comic books this morning. Nearly all of them are from the early 60s-late seventies; so far I’ve found issues covering Sgt. Rock, GI Combat, Detective Comics, Lone Ranger, Popeye, and some Hanna-Barbera stuff. Most of them are in pretty bad condition, but at least 10-15 are still in plastic. We want to sell it online, but have zero experience with it. Can anyone recommend a reliable site or service that handles that kind of thing, or should I just go into the proverbial rabbit hole with eBay?

Thanks in advance.

The Wiivengers – A Marvel / Nintendo-Verse Mashup (Parody)

Check out this awesome animation James Farr made for the recent release of Smash 3DS! Never thought I’d see a Nintendo and Marvel mashup!

Three Questions With Lois Lane

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about questions. As in, the three you’d dread being asked by a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist writing about your life. It’s an interesting prompt; it’s like thinking up ways to confuse yourself. It’s harder to write about something uncomfortable, but the thought of being grilled by the likes of Lois Lane makes me geek out in the best way. As for the questions, though…

Lois: You write about many subjects and have tons of interests, but you rarely talk about faith. What exactly is your stance on religion?

Uh, er…It’s complicated. My mom’s side of the family is devoutly religious – my grandfather was even a minister – but I often got into trouble for asking so many questions and not accepting the explanations given to me. The phrase, “Because I said so” meant nothing to me. Yeah, I was that kid. Though I was responsible and had perfect grades, I was often treated like a rebellious outcast. There are still some people at the local church who refuse to even look at me. There’s a lot of guilt and shame that comes with that kind of upbringing. I won’t deny the importance of religion – people need to believe in something, be it spiritual, philosophical, psychological, technological, etc. – but I can’t adhere to one over the other. For all the politics and bloodshed, religions often tell the same stories and beliefs in different ways. It’s like the human race; many branches, one tree. The problem comes when you use those beliefs to justify violence and oppression against others. Life is far too short, and people should be treated humanely regardless of what gods to which they pray. We should be helping and learning, not killing each other. I’m not naive enough to think everyone would act in such an idealistic way, of course. Conflict is unavoidable. We may never find out which beliefs – if any – are accurate. All we can really do is find happiness while we can.

Lois: Uh huh. Sounds like agnosticism by way of the Dalai Lama. So, what’s with the pretty hair? You’ve written that it’s part of your individuality, but is there something more to it than that? Is it just an expression of vanity? Gender dysphoria? Sexual orientation?

Whoa, Ms. Lane. Making a lot of assumptions here. Yeah, I can’t say that I’m the most macho guy around, but adhering to stereotypes is a fool’s errand. People are still shocked when they find out I know how to run a household; apparently men are supposed to be inept in that regard. Everyone is bombarded with expectations on a daily basis, encouraging them to achieve some kind of socially-approved image of perfection. It happens to both women and men, and it’s a tragedy waiting to happen. After years of bullying and being called girly, I finally decided to roll with it. I grew out my hair as a way to mess with expectations; you’d be amazed how many compliments and double-takes I get in public. I don’t mind being mistaken for a “miss” anymore. As for the gender/orientation thing…I’ll get married to an amazing woman (sorry, gentlemen) someday, but I want a relationship built on something more meaningful than an outdated ideal. I want to create my own niche in life, not be shoved into a category. I’d expect the same kind of drive out of my spouse. The important things are your capabilities and choices, not what’s between your legs. It took me a long time to realize that being different is a good thing. It’s made me a much more confident person. And yes, there is some vanity involved; my hair looks good.

Lois:…Right. All of this idealism and whatnot sounds great, but some of your articles hint at depression, insecurity, and isolation. Is what you’ve said thus far just a cover for your pessimism?

Look, it hasn’t been easy. In retrospect, I’ve gotten through stuff that should never happen to anyone. But it did, and it made me a better, stronger person for it. And yeah, it’s driven me to very bad places. I’m still making my way back, and sometimes I stumble. Fallibility is part of the human condition. Pessimism is a big part of who I am; it keeps me grounded and realistic. Here’s something to consider, though: People really like to refer to Nietzsche when they’re thinking about how pointless life is. He’s practically the go-to philosopher for it in pop culture. However, they’re not fully considering his work in context; Nietzsche argues that since life is meaningless, you should overcome and take it on your own terms. You’re a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. So what? Since you’re going to die regardless, you might as well enjoy it. Live by your own virtues and morality, and make it worthwhile for yourself and others. If I can approach each day as such and continue growing as person, then maybe I’ll die satisfied.

Lois: Huh. You sound like Lex before he went insane…Anyway, enough questions for the day. I’ll be back tomorrow. Have a good one! (Wait till Smallville hears this…)

Happy Belated Free Comic Book Day!

Hey, folks. Yesterday, North American comic fans celebrated the annual Free Comic Book Day. Basically, you could go to a participating comic book store and receive a bag of free samplers (or a selection of stuff on display) while enjoying whatever other promotions or sales going on. Since I live within reasonable traveling distance – the BART subway system has proven immensely useful – I decided to take the plunge for the first time. I don’t like being in huge crowds, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. Besides, the weather was perfect for a little urban exploration.

I got to Fantastic Comics in Berkeley around 11:15, and the line was out the door and almost to the street corner.  It was a drastic change compared to my previous visit; last year I ducked in there for the Graphic Canon, and bought it seconds later. The wait this time was made bearable by the swift pace of the foot traffic, as well as all the awkward, sleepy kids in their little super hero costumes. There were also some cosplayers:

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Things were a little more hectic inside. The setup was simple: the incoming line hugged the wall, browsing the shelves until reaching the counter at the back. Everyone was given a plastic bag filled with comics, then a choice of four other assorted comics on display. Once that was done, people could split off from the line and explore the store for more stuff. And man, did they have a lot:

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^That’s only about half the store. The Walking Dead, Y: The Last Man, Marvel Compendiums, Game of Thrones, Batman, Ghostbusters, My Little Pony, Gundam, Dexter’s Lab, Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avatar…pretty much every graphic novel you could possibly think of. A shame they didn’t have any of the Street Fighter art books, though. I ended up settling on Battle Royale; I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while, and I’d like to see how it influenced The Hunger Games.

From there, I browsed a couple more stores on the block, particularly Half Price Books and Games of Berkeley. One of the local sandwich shops apparently broke bad for the occasion:

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I got back on BART and headed to Collector’s Haven in downtown Oakland. Due to its location, most people would probably miss it. I certainly did; I had to double check the address just to make sure. It’s sandwiched within the vicinity of a tattoo parlor and a psychic, and at the top of a narrow flight of stairs. It was much smaller and quieter – there were maybe 4 people, including the staff – but they had a good selection of figurines and had an X-Men cartoon playing. I got a few free volumes that I missed at the previous store, then got back on the train. My next destination: San Francisco. Today was supposedly California Book Store Day, but the Alexander Book Company didn’t seem to have anything special going on…I left without getting anything, then ducked into the Cartoon Art Museum. The selection certainly changed since last year; they had Studio Ghibli art books for some of Hayao Miyazaki’s films! I ended up getting the Art of Howl’s Moving Castle, then promptly left before temptation could overwhelm me. I wandered around the city for a couple more hours, then finally made the trip home.

So, final count for Free Comic Book Day:

Battle Royale

Art of Howl’s Moving Castle
Mega Man Archie Comics #36: The Trial of Doctor Wily (including what has to be a Phoenix Wright knockoff at the beginning!)
A promotional pamphlet for The Clear Case by Stephanie Edd

Free comics/previews/samplers for:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Rocket Raccoon
  • Mega Man X/Sonic The Hedgehog (Snatched this up the second I saw it)
  • Street Fighter (I’m a huge SF fan, so this was a very nice surprise!)
  • New 52: Futures End
  • Teen Titans Go
  • Far From Wonder: Volume 1
  • Uncle $crooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity
  • Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan
  • Les Miserables: The Fall of Fantine (Art by SunNeko Lee. Dunno how I feel about Les Mis manga-style…)
  • Entropy
  • Courtney Crumrin

That’s aside from walking four or five miles, getting 28 tags on my 3DS StreetPass, and having a much-needed day out in the city. Now that I’m back home, I know I’m going to regret all this activity in the morning. But at least I’ll have plenty to read…

Soundtrack Saturdays: Marvel VS Capcom 2 – Swamp Theme

Video

Anyone remotely interested in fighting games circa 2000 will remember Marvel VS Capcom 2. It boasted 56 playable characters from not only Street Fighter, Mega Man and other famous Capcom games, but all your favorite Marvel comic book characters as well. The result? Dazzling visuals and ridiculously fun competitions. The game’s eclectic jazz and electronic soundtrack was equally amazing, but it’s been unfortunately removed in subsequent ports. Longtime fans and arcade connoisseurs ought to remember this tune well. Swing your body!

You can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Why IS It Called January?

Hey, folks. We’re about halfway through January already. But have you ever thought about why the first month of the year is called “January”? Well, it’s all thanks to Janus. No, not the James Bond villain from Goldeneye. No, not one of Saturn’s moons. Like a lot of modern naming conventions, it goes back to the Romans. According to Cicero and other ancient writers, Janus was their god of beginnings and transitions. It sounds kind of lame at first glance, but there some awesome implications when you think about it. Every gate, door, ending, marriage, harvest, boundary, and shifts between war and peace were his domain. This guy was responsible for the flow of time itself. He even had two faces (no, not like that one guy) just so he could look into both the past and the future at the same time.

And you thought Doc Brown was awesome.

“January” is a reference to Janus by way of the Latin word Ianuarius. It – along with Februarius – were supposedly added to the calendar by Numa Pompilius, the legendary second king of Rome. That dude was responsible for creating a lot of religious and cultural traditions in the empire, some of which still lingers in modern times. Ever hear the term “vestal virgin”? Yeah, that was his idea. So was the construction of Ianus geminus, the Temple of Janus. It had doors on both ends (of course!) which were only shut during peacetime. That last part was really rare, because, you know, it was Ancient Rome. If you were a king and got to close the temple to symbolize peace for the empire, you earned some serious bragging rights. It’s like having “Won the Nobel Prize” on your resume.

Oh, one last thing: Today’s entry was posted on January 14th. According to some Roman calendars, today is marked as dies vitiosus. It basically means that something is bad or faulty about that specific day. One calendar, the Fasti Verulani, gives us the reason: it was Mark Antony’s birthday. You know, the guy who loved Cleopatra so much that he betrayed the empire and tried to go to war against Augustus? Even if you’re not well-versed in history, I’m pretty sure you can figure out how well that went down. Let’s just say the consequences (both short and long-term) were…messy. You know you’ve messed up when your enemies can legally declare your birthday to be inherently evil.

I Warped Reality To Believe In Magic

Hey, folks. Happy New Year! Today’s Daily Prompt is all about magic. As in, what kind magical powers you’d like to have. I’ve enjoyed more than enough literature and anime to know what direction I’d go in. If I had the power to do any kind of magic, I’d be a full-blown Reality Warper. It’s just like it sounds: I’d have the ability to create, destroy, or alter reality with just a thought. I’d be like Q on Next Generation, just hopefully less of a pain to those around me. Or maybe like Aladdin’s Genie. I’d try to be a force for good, like redesigning ecosystems to support life and food crops. Or maybe I’d develop a subatomic particle that allows water to become a viable fuel. I could use my insights into the fabric of space-time to figure out complex equations and give humanity a huge technological boost. I’d make it so I didn’t need oxygen or radiation protection for interstellar travel, then go about exploring the cosmos. I could figure out exactly what happens when you get sucked into a black hole, or if aliens really exist. The possibilities would be endless!

…And that’s the problem, too. If you can change reality by just thinking, imagine the kind of toll that would take on a human mind. It’s horrifying when deconstructed. What if you accidentally kill someone by erasing them from reality? If they’re completely gone, doesn’t that mean that your memories would be affected too? What happens if you change the subatomic makeup of hydrogen to solve a temporary problem? Wouldn’t that alter and potentially destroy everything else? Consider Haruhi Suzumiya; since she’s unaware of her powers, the other characters have to keep her entertained lest she accidentally destroy the universe! Then there’s the whole problem with things like identity and loyalty. In the Watchmen series, Dr. Manhattan could manipulate matter and was used by the government as the ultimate weapon in the Vietnam War. But since he could comprehend things on an entirely different level, he slowly lost his humanity. At least he knew he wasn’t a god; plenty of other characters with his kind of power went insane and declared themselves deities…

Ugh, this is getting messy.

Okay, first order of business when I get these magical powers: Give myself a mind capable of understanding all of the potential my powers can create, foresight of the consequences therein, and the discipline to keep my mind from accidentally tearing the fabric of reality. That shouldn’t be too hard…right?

An Old Story, With A New Twist

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about inventiveness. Specifically, an invention that reverses pollution.

…Seriously? Wow. This is actually really hard. Okay, let’s think about this.

Pollution comes in many forms. For simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with the big ones, like air and water pollution. There would need to be a way to not only filter pollutants prior to emission, but to keep them from escaping into the atmosphere at all. They’d have to be harnessed and converted into fuel, but the scope of such a process is anyone’s guess. Not all air pollution is man-made; volcanic eruptions, cattle digesting food, and radioactive decay are all naturally-occurring processes. Also, having something like sulfur oxide replacing gasoline would likely have its own hazards. However, nitrous oxide engines aren’t unheard of. It’d be really interesting to see an engine running on water pollutants like chlorinated solvents or perchlorate, but there would be a plethora of health and environmental issues with them. How do you convert something so toxic into a working, viable fuel? Chemical reaction? Particle physics?

I don’t know.

I’d say that it’s just a matter of technology catching up with chemistry, but that doesn’t address the bigger problem: Sustainability. Anyone who’s even glanced at an article about economics and natural resources knows how messy things have gotten. Politics aside, our society runs on finite resources. Period. It’s the same problem that’s plagued every single living creature since the dawn of time: We do not have enough of what we need to survive. It’s practically the theme of our history. The only way we survive is to adapt by changing what we need. Since our current technology (including the manufacturing of potential anti-pollution facilities) runs on fossil fuels, we’d have to devise an engine that runs on something else. Since energy can’t be created or destroyed, it would need to be converted from a naturally-occurring source. Solar panels and wind turbines have taken great strides in the last few decades, but the technology still has a long way to go. I’d be more interested in a large scale magnetism-based electrical engine. Magnetism and electricity go hand in hand, but using it in everyday life is still pretty far off.

Unless you’re Magneto.

…And now I’m going to be spending my afternoon reading up on physics, electromagnetism, and comics. Thanks, Daily Prompt!

Daily Prompt: Love to Love You, Or: Curiosity Won’t Kill This Cat

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt focuses on love. Specifically, what you love most about yourself and your favorite person. This one is kind of tricky for a couple of reasons. I’m hardly social, so I don’t have a favorite person. I’m also prone to deep, dark bouts of cynicism and self-criticism; catch me in a bad mood and I’ll really show you to difference between misanthropy and existential nihilism. It’s not pretty, trust me. The whole “love thyself” thing has always seemed weird to me. I mean, I understand its purpose and its inherently therapeutic nature, but putting it into practice is much more difficult.

My knee-jerk reaction to the prompt is to say intelligence. I love being the Sherlock/chessmaster/philosophical/scientific/bookworm type. And I absolutely love women who can engage me both intellectually and creatively. The best relationships involve teaching and learning from each other. Even on my own, there’s so much potential to be had with it.  I can devour books with reckless abandon. I can pick up languages with ease. I can pick up details and read people with a glance.

…Sounds narcissistic, doesn’t it? See, that’s the problem a lot of folks have with intelligence. For some reason, being smart is associated with arrogance, vanity, self-centeredness, etc. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite fictional characters ever, but he’d probably be a really aggravating roommate or coworker. Seriously, go read A Study In Scarlet. Dr. Watson is a skilled surgeon and war veteran, but he quickly realizes just how weird his new friend is. Look at the titular character from the House television series. The man is absolutely brilliant, yet he thinks it gives him free reign to be an unrepentant (most of the time) misanthrope. His ego and vices prevent him from reaching his full potential. Even Batman, Lex Luthor, and Doctor Doom, three of the most intelligent characters ever put to ink, are held back by their respective obsessions. The same goes with Kira and L from Death Note. Spock doesn’t lack emotions just so he can play off the better-balanced Kirk; it’s because his character arc is all about developing his humanity.

You don’t even need to look into fiction to see something similar. You probably know someone (or maybe it’s you!) that has a huge library of classics. Maybe they acquired the books for their studies. Maybe they like reading stuff in the original languages. I know someone that proudly displays his Russian edition of War and Peace on his top shelf. He’s never actually read it; he just likes telling people that he could read it. See the difference? I’ve read War and Peace, but my copy is tucked safely down in storage. It would take up way too much room on my shelf. It’s also too heavy to be a practical traveling companion. I own the entirety of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, but it’s all crammed into a section of my closet because I don’t have anywhere else to put it.

…Going on a tangent. Sorry.

The point is that intellect alone is not what makes it appealing. It’s the way such a personality is cultivated that makes the difference. Intelligence not just for its own sake, but the hows and whys as well. Which brings me back to the prompt and my answer: the favorite aspect of myself is my curiosity. I don’t study stuff just because I want to look smarter than everyone else. You don’t have to be a show-off for people to know how brilliant you supposedly are. I study stuff because I want to know how everything works. It doesn’t matter what it is; if it catches my eye and looks interesting, I will try to learn everything I can about it. Questions lead to knowledge and skills, which lead to more perspective, experience, and furthering potential. That insatiable need to seek is a quality I wish more people had. I need to explore, to get lost, and find my way. I can’t just take reality as it is; I want to understand every last detail. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn something about myself along the way.

What do you love about yourself, and why? Think about it.