Friday, August 31, 2018

The Path To Whimsy

A long time ago, back in the Stone Age before the internet was what it is today, there was a tool for players that was put out by White Wolf called StoryPath and Whimsy cards. Now, Nocturnal Media have relaunched the lines, and added sets of cards that were originally planned but never launched.




Top 10 Influential Books

There's one of those memes going around Facebook where people share the ten books that have been most influential on them throughout their lives. I'm not big on the whole "tag me and I will tag someone to do the same post" thing, so I'm just going to post here to my blog instead. Here are ten books, in no particular order or anything, along with a little blurb for each.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Go Into The Void With Horror Comic The Gentleman

There is a long history of the occult detective in horror fiction, starting back with characters like Carnaki and John Silence and stretching into the present with comic book characters like Doctor Occult and John Constantine. SFC Comics now brings a new character into this tradition in there comic The Gentleman: Darkness of the Void.

Oliver Solomon, the hero of The Gentleman, isn't just a Constantine of color. Like many heroes of horror, Solomon is haunted by his past. This aspect of the character is brought out in the story quickly, but it is handled in an organic manner by writer Greg Anderson Elysee. What could have been a cliched stereotype of a character is engaging and pulls you along deeper into the story, like a good antagonist should do.

The character of Solomon joins a small circle of male bisexual characters in comics. Sexuality can be an important part of both people and fictional characters, and sexual attraction can influence how people interact with each other. Solomon's sexuality is right on the surface of the character, and telegraphs his interaction with other characters in places. I think that this adds depth to the character and makes Solomon feel more real. Sexual attraction can make us all do stupid things, and in a world where supernatural horrors are real it can make a person do things that are really stupid. But, when the "smart" choice would be to not engage with a world of horrors, it is important to have a motivation that compels the character to act. Is sexual attraction a smart reason to do something? Not always, but I am sure that we can all think of times that we've done stupid things because of sexual attraction.

Obviously, this isn't an all ages comic book. There is nothing sexually explicit in this first issue, but The Gentleman's creative team is not afraid to jump head first into the mature themes that are often an important part of horror fiction.

The book is a bit of a slow burn, opting to build the tone and feel of the setting, but this isn't unusual for horror fiction, or comics. World building is important to horror, and Elysee confidently builds and reveals the world of The Gentleman without being heavy handed.

The Gentleman dives into the worlds of African and Caribbean mysticism, which is another way that the story sets itself apart from other horror comics. The use of this mysticism is a breath of fresh air because any other horror comic would have seen yet another retread of the Goetia and white mysticism that we usually see in comics. This is just one of the reasons why fresh voices, and fresh perspectives, outside of what we have seen again and again in comic book storytelling are so important. We need diverse voices in our entertainment because we need fresh perspectives and approaches to stories in our comic books. We've seen plenty of the same old voices, we need more of the new voices.

The art of Massimiliano Veltri is wonderful and has been given a vivid power by the colors of Marco Pagnotta. The art is bold and lifelike, and in a number of places I think that Veltri's art is very reminiscent of Tom Mandrake's work. As Mandrake is probably one of the best horror comic artists, this comparison isn't a bad one. The characters are well rendered and recognizable, and the art brings the world to life. Pagnotta's color palette is warm and restrained, and doesn't turn the book's shadowy world muddy.

This was a great start to the story of Oliver Solomon, and I look forward to seeing more of it. There is so much more story hinted at in this first issue, and in the capable hands of Elysee and Veltri I think that this comic has nowhere to go but up.

With the release of The Gentleman we should start the clock on how long it will be before Elysee is snatched up by one of the major publishers in comics. As a writer he has a strong sense of character and story, an innate storytelling ability that goes beyond the few comics that he has written. It looks like we have a lot of great comics to look forward to from Elysee's pen in the years to come.

The Gentleman was published via a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. My review is based on a digital copy provided by the book's author.




Friday, August 17, 2018

Looking Back At Gen Con 2018

Now that Gen Con is a couple of weeks in the rear view mirror, I think that I can put down some of my thoughts about the convention. This is going to be a more or less random set of impressions that I have, in no particular order of importance.

Friday, July 13, 2018

You May Have Heard


If you follow me on social media, you may have caught my big news today. I have been offered a job with Petersen Games, and I have accepted it. I will be working for them in a sales capacity, at least at first, and I am looking forward to getting things going. This also means that I will be ending my multi-year relationship with EN World. If you haven't kept up with my writing over there, you can got through the backlog by clicking here.

What does that mean going forward? Well, I am going to be busy getting used to Petersen Games, the people who work there and their games, but once I have finished that. However, eventually I will probably return to writing at this blog again. My work at EN World was important to me, and it didn't leave me a lot of time for posting here.

I won't be posting here as often as I was at EN World, I'm just not going to have the time for that. However, I do want to keep up with reviewing games and talking about games and gaming. My goal is to eventually get back to posting here a couple of times each month. When will this start? There's no real time table on that.




Friday, December 22, 2017

My Top 10 Songs For 2017

Based on my listening habits from the last year, I made up a list of the top ten songs that I listened to the most from 2017. I don't know if I can really rank them or not, but these would be among the top of the songs from this year that I have listened to the most.
I totally get that your list is different from mine. That's what makes music awesome.

10) Gorillaz - She's My Collar (featuring Kali Uchis)

There is a lot of good on Humanz the latest album from the Gorillaz, but She's My Collar is the one that stuck in my playlists.


9) Sir Sly - High

This is a catchy pop tune that I picked up from the radio. Like some of the early tracks by Grouplove, this song got stuck in my brain in a good way.


8) Zola Jesus - Siphon

This latest Zola Jesus album is mind-blastingly good, and a bit of a departure for her, soundwise. But still SO GOOD.


7) Lorde - Green Lights

Her first adult album, and it was really good. Melodrama got rid of a lot of the teen angst that were a big part of Heroine and replaced it with some really mature song writing. This woman has a long career ahead of her in music.


6) Bleachers - Don't Take The Money

Bleachers really grew on me. They took a chance with Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 (spoiler alert: there was no volume one), and let a group of women singers reinterpret the music from their album Strange Desire. The gamble paid off with a record that was both familiar and innovative. Now they've come back with their fusion of rock and pop with Gone Now.


5) Alt-J - House of The Rising Sun

It really doesn't get to be much more of a deeper cut than Alt-J covering the seminal rock song, House of the Rising Sun by The Animals. Barely nosing out the track In Cold Blood, this became my favorite from Relaxer, the latest from Alt-J.


4) Portugal. The Man - Feel It

There is a whole lot of political naivete in this song, but it wraps it up in a nice sugar pill of pop music that you can almost forgive the band.


3) Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Arcade Fire had a hard time recovering from The Suburbs. To be honest, that is probably one of the best albums of the last decade. Reflekor was a hot mess compared to it. I think that the band has finally recovered with Everything Now. I went with the title track as my favorite, but there's a lot of really good cuts off of this album.


2) St. Vincent - Pills

Breakups suck, and breakup albums rarely capture the lightning in a bottle of the feelings of love, and loss that come with a breakup. Masseduction manages to give a peak into Anne Clark's head, and let's you feel some of the emotions that are spilling out of her over her breakup. Again, there's a lot of good on this album. Give New York and Los Ageless good listens too.


1) HAIM - Right Now

I wouldn't have expected HAIM to be at the top of a list like this for me, but here we are. These three sisters from Los Angeles put together some great music influenced by bands like Fleetwood Mac. Something To Tell You is their second album, and it is no sophomore slump.





Monday, November 13, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini -- A Review [NSFW]

There are currently few purveyors of the hardboiled noir school of pulp fiction that are as good as the Hard Case Crime imprint from Titan Books. When I want a new crime fiction book to read, I go through the crime section of the book store, looking for the familiar white and orange spine with that Hard Crime logo. I am never disappointed. When Titan Comics announced a few years ago that they would be adding a Hard Case Crime comics line, I was over the moon. There have been some great comics since: Peepland, Normandy Gold and their adaptation of the Millennium Trilogy have been some of the best crime comics of recent time. Now, add to this list the awesomely named Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.



Monday, August 07, 2017

What COULD Happen If Disney Stopped Publishing Marvel Comics?


There is an interesting article on (of all places) a site focused on Disney and Disney-related theme parks that asks the question Will Disney Stop Publishing Marvel Comic Books? We all know that one of the basic rules of journalism is that if your headline asks a yes/no question, the answer is typically no.

The thing is that this headline asks a pretty valid question that once would have been a resounding "no," but with the state of the comics market, and the fact that Marvel Comics has been bleeding readers for a while now, I don't know that it is that simple of a question any more. Neither Marvel Comics nor DC Comics are the powerhouses of the comics market that they were 30 or 40 years ago. In fact, the comics market itself has never really recovered from the market's speculator-lead bust of the 90s. Sales of DC Comics are up from what they were a few years ago (thanks mostly to the bump in sales that came about due to the Rebirth initiative that the company started about a year ago), but across the industry the sales numbers are no where near sustainable in the long term.

People have a number of reasons why they aren't buying comics like they used to. The quality isn't what it was. The stories are rehashes. Long-term readers don't recognize the characters in the comics anymore. There is a cycle of events that interrupt the various ongoing books, stalling out their stories. Buying comics on a monthly basis is expensive.

Some of these reasons are probably more valid than others, but regardless of the underlying reasons, people don't read comics like they used to read them. The direct comics market is also increasingly fragile for a number of reasons: many comics retailers aren't the best of business people (having gotten into the business because of their love of comics), declining sales means declining capital, and declining capital means that it is more difficult for retailers to diversify their product base or weather the storm of declining sales. Many comics stores are only just now recovering from the industry implosion of the 90s, and it wouldn't take a lot to cause them to teeter over the brink. Would they be able to bounce back again?

Regardless of the comic buying patterns of many of us comic fans, the comic market lives and dies by the selling power of the Big Two: Marvel Comics and DC Comics. If Disney were to decide that Marvel is a more profitable brand if it focuses on movies and merchandising, there would be an immense and sudden vacuum that would lead to another bust within the comics market. I don't think that another company would fill the vacuum left by Marvel. Image Comics, IDW Publishing and Boom! all publish some good books, but they don't scratch that super-hero itch that the Big Two does.

It is this lack of genre diversity that would be one of the factors that would lead to this bust. By putting so much of a market reliance onto just one genre of storytelling, the industry makes it more difficult to course correct by having other publishers step into the void left by a publisher leaving it. By relying heavily upon one genre, they create their own long term troubles. The collapse of the comics market would hurt the livelihood of a lot of people -- from creatives to distributors to retailers. It isn't an outcome that I would want to see.

If it came to pass that Disney decided to pull the plug on Marvel Comics publishing comics on a monthly basis it would decimate the industry. Even companies like DC Comics, with the deep pockets of Warner backing them, would have problems, because of the impact that it would have on the direct market. Too many eggs have been put into one basket of distribution and sales, just like they have been put into the one basket of genre. This isn't something that I would want to see happen, but I think that it is more becoming a possibility with each passing month.



Saturday, August 05, 2017

Face Front, True Believers!


As I am sure you all know, Gen Con is coming, and it will be the 50th anniversary of the convention. I'll be there, covering things for EN World and posting here at the blog, too. My appointment schedule has filled up, but there are still a couple of ways to find me at the convention. When I'm not in meetings, I'll be wandering the exhibitor's hall plus I am going to be on a couple of panels this year.

Thursday at 5pm local time I'll be part of a panel talking about being a tabletop freelancer. Kiel, the original panel moderator, had to cancel at the last minute, so I am stepping in with Beth Rimmels and Jacqueline Bryk to talk about getting a start as a freelancer in gaming. I'm pretty much just going to be there for the ride.

Friday at noon local time I'll be co-paneling with Beth Rimmels and we'll talk about marketing and publicity as a gaming professional. It will be fun. You'll laugh. You'll cry. Hopefully after wards you'll know more about marketing, because knowing is half the battle.

These are both ConTessa panels, and they're doing a whole bunch of awesome stuff at the con.

And finally, Sunday at 1pm local time there is going to be a panel talking about Battlefield Press, and what we've got that is new and upcoming. I'm sure you'll want to check that out.

Hopefully I will see you at Gen Con in a couple of weeks!



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CALEXIT Creator Pizzolo To Fund "Become The Government" SuperPAC With Comic's Profits


Superheroes are synonymous with comic books, while SuperPACs are ingrained in the current political landscape, and now there’s an unlikely crossover between the two worlds in the works. Matteo Pizzolo, the writer of the acclaimed comic book series CALEXIT and the co-founder of Black Mask Studios, is starting a SuperPAC called Become The Government to support first-time candidates from non-partisan backgrounds in the 2018 midterm elections. Pizzolo will contribute his writing royalties from the acclaimed ongoing CALEXIT comic book series to support Become The Government. Last week the first issue of the series by Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan was released with a print run of 25,000. Within 24 hours, the book had sold out at the distribution level and at most major comic book retailers, prompting publisher Black Mask Studios to immediately initiate a second printing.

“Our intention in creating CALEXIT was to tell a story that celebrates the spirit of resistance. We want it to ultimately be optimistic, if not inspirational,” said Pizzolo. “Our job is first and foremost to serve our characters and tell an entertaining story. We’re not preaching at our audience.

“But at the same time, we have the opportunity to engage with readers on another level in a conversation about the state of the country. Each issue of CALEXIT has interviews with people like political activist Amanda Weaver, director Lexi Alexander and author Bill Ayers and I’ll be documenting the formation of the SuperPAC in the back matter of the upcoming comics.

“For me, forming the SuperPAC is an incredibly educational experience in how our government works, and I hope that by documenting my process in the backmatter of CALEXIT I can share what I’m learning about this strange and fascinating part of American politics, “ said Pizzolo. “With the Become The Government SuperPac, I’ll be putting my money where my ideals are by taking a more active role in the 2018 midterm elections, just like I hope CALEXIT might inspire some readers to take a more active role in their local communities.”

In CALEXIT, the citizens of California struggle to seize power back from an autocratic government. The ongoing series tells the story of Jamil, a 25-year old courier (aka smuggler), and Zora, a 27-year old leader in the Pacific Coast Sister Cities Resistance, who escape together from a prison camp in Occupied Los Angeles, where martial law has been in place for the past year —  ever since America’s demagogue President signed an executive order to deport all immigrants, and California responded by proclaiming itself a Sanctuary State. Each issue of CALEXIT will also include non-fiction material about local sustainability and grassroots campaigning for 2018 elections.

“When I started researching and speaking with people who are doing real-world political work, it really struck me how important midterm and local elections are, and how the smaller elections that aren't as glamorous as the Presidency have an outsized influence on people's everyday lives. And I became very inspired to join the process and support new candidates in smaller elections who can effect change on a local level in the short and medium term while also rising with grassroots support to become national leaders over the long term.

“Not all of our readers share my personal values and this isn’t an official position of the book, my co-creators, or the company, it is simply what I personally am opting to do with money I earn from my work writing the book. And I hope that by being open and honest about that it will continue the conversation between writer and readers. I’m hoping my experiences here will inspire our readers to participate more directly in their local communities, and I would hope it might encourage readers of all political points of view toward greater and more constructive participation. If there’s one thing I’m trying to say with the book it’s that we don’t have to agree on everything in order to work together.”

Become The Government will be an independent-expenditure-only political action committee focused on supporting first-time candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The group, which will select candidates to support but will not donate directly to them nor coordinate directly with their campaigns, intends to advocate for candidates who bring fresh new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the position.

Black Mask Studios will be exhibiting at San Diego Comic Con this week at Booth 2104 and selling a San Diego Comic Con exclusive cover by Winston Smith. the iconic artist whose work graced the album covers of The Dead Kennedys. The Los Angeles based indie publisher has arranged the “CALEXIT: Change The World Tour” of comic stores to promote the new series this summer.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Be Careful What You Wish For Because You Could Get A CALEXIT


I wouldn't have thought a year ago that this would be the world that I would be finding myself in. So many things have turned upside down, and inside out. I have said for a while that politics have been a part of comics since Superman threw a corrupt politician over the capitol building and Captain America punched Hitler. The medium has provided voices for the disenfranchised and work for people who had a hard time finding work because of their ethnicity, or their religion. Many readers have dumbed down the definition of comics to be their lowest common denominator, the so-called escapism of super-hero comics. But the medium is so much more than just that, and sometimes it takes a comic publisher willing to be more to remind us of that.

I've known about Black Mask Studios for a while, but I have only really seriously been getting into their books over the last year or so. I've been playing catch up, going back and finding these comics because they are some of the best that I have seen in a long time. The creative energy behind this publisher and the comics that they publish is something that I haven't felt since the months leading up to the foundation of DC Comics' Vertigo Comics imprint, or the early days of the comics that Milestone published. What Black Mask Studios is doing is lightning in a bottle.

As good as those imprints were in their respective days, I don't think that we would have seen comics like Kim & Kim or Quantum Teens Are Go! from a publisher like Milestone. We certainly wouldn't have seen such raw and open political commentary as Calexit coming from a mainstream publisher. These aren't just the comics that we should want as comic fans, they are the comics that we need. I think that we have forgotten that what we now call popular culture was meant to be the voice of the disenfranchises, the discontent and the outsiders.



I have a few friends in California. I visited the state for the first time as an adult a couple of years ago. I live in the South. I grew up in the Midwest. California was almost like visiting another country for me, but in a very, very good way. It was also very much like coming home. It isn't a surprise that there has been talk from people in California about succession. We're in a time of unrest unlike any I've personally seen since our country's turmoil of the 1960s. It also isn't a surprise that this unrest would create a work like the Calexit comic.

We are a country that is built upon protest, even though the powers that be would like to simultaneously call back to those bucolic days while simultaneously glossing over the parts about revolution and protest. Reading the first issue of the Calexit comic hit me in a way similar to when I first heard Public Enemy, hearing that mix of intellectual discourse with pure, raw anger at how the world ended up the way that it did. That is a tone that I am hearing more and more from friends (and strangers) as the current political environment continues to grow and build like a psychological mushroom cloud, poisoning everything that it touches as it grows and sweeps across the world.


The is always a need for dissenting voices in our country, in our world. I won't lie, Calexit is a scary ass comic. This sort of story isn't new, you could argue that Brian Wood went over similar ground with his DMZ comic, but compared to Calexit Wood's work feels toothless, tamed. This comic is an angry, confused and sometimes disconsolate voice howling out into the world, not unlike that of the protagonist of the seminal American poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg. Calexit and Howl are not dissimilar in that they both represent voices of an impetus for change in an age when societal forces are trying to keep change from happening. If you consider Art to be the harbinger of change as I do, then Calexit is the voice of "best minds of my generation destroyed by madness."

Calexit also has one of the best back matters in comics right now. Writer Pizzolo has interviewed activists and film maker Lexi Alexander to get their perspectives on politics, art and their intersections. It is some pretty powerful stuff, and I think that the interviews add depth and a stunning reality to the fiction of the comic. I hope that Calexit spawns more overt and mature political commentary in comics, across the political spectrum. Calexit is a powerful book and you need to read it with an open mind, regardless of where you are politically. I hope that it can open some eyes and wake up some people as it gives a voice to the completely warranted fears and frustrations of a good part of America.

I will say this: Calexit isn't for everyone. It took me a couple of reads before I became comfortable enough to find a way to talk about the book like I am now. This is why my review is coming out after the release of the book, rather than leading into it. I too had to find my voice to talk about this comic. If you think that comics can be more than just two guys in spandex punching each other in the name of conflict, then you need to read this comic. If you think that we need political discourse and dissent in our country, and our world, then you need to read Calexit. It is an uncomfortable and unflinching comic, but it is also a necessary one. Howl at the world and read this comic.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes To The Blog


I've turned off both G+ commenting and comments in general, here on the blog. Why? The answers are simple. I've been decoupling from G+ over the last few months (I have stopped actively posting over there), and pretty much the only sharing that I do to the site is automated. G+ had a great run, and I met some cool people because of it, but the handwriting is on the wall, and I would rather turn off the G+ functionality myself than find out (too late) that it was going away.

Turning off commenting has more to do with how I interact with social media these days. There are basically a couple of ways that I share content online these days: short term sharing and long term sharing.

Short term sharing are things like sales occurring on the OneBookShelf site, or places like the Humble Bundle or the Bundle of Holding. These things are ephemeral, and there's really no need to create a record of them that we can look back at in a year, or five. Things like that will go to my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Things that I want to keep around for long periods of time, like reviews and commentary, come here to the blog. These are things that I want people to be able to reference years after I have posted them.

For some, blogs have developed into forum-like communities, and that is cool, but for me a blog is simply a way to share content or ideas in a more-or-less permanent manner. Social media was designed for commenting and conversation, so I would rather continue to have conversations in those places (see the above links). Back in 2002-2003, when I started seriously blogging, commenting wasn't even a thing yet. The idea of blogs was to share links to the places around the 'Net that you thought were cool and interesting. They were a bookmarks folder that you shared with the world. Because of that, I've never really associated blogs with places where people meet and talk about things, and with the rise of social media, this angle is even less relevant to me.

There are as many approaches to blogging and social media as there are people using them. These approaches are mine and if you use your blog and social media differently, that is awesome.

In a few months, I'll have been posting to this blog for 14 years, and this time next year it will have been 15 years. It is weird to think that I have been using this blog for as long as I have, but I think that allowing my approach to the blog, and to blogging in general, is what has allowed this blog to live for as long as it has.

I hope to see you on Twitter or Facebook. Let's chat!



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jim Zub and Steven Cummings’ Wayward Comic Optioned By Manga Entertainment


Writer Jim Zub and illustrator Steven Cummings’ Wayward, an ongoing comic series published by Image Comics, has been optioned by UK-based Manga Entertainment for development in television as a Japanese animated or live action series. Zub and Cummings will act as creative consultants on the project, including development of the initial story treatment along with character and creature designs.

Wayward is an action-drama set in modern Tokyo where Yokai, Japanese creatures and spirits of legend, battle against teenagers imbued with newfound supernatural power. The series launched to critical acclaim in August 2014 and is currently available in monthly comic format and four collected trade paperbacks, with a new deluxe hardcover collection arriving in July. Wayward's first volume, String Theory, made the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2016 List of ‘Great Graphic Novels for Teens’ and has been favorably reviewed by many outlets, including Kirkus.

Zub is a Harvey and Shuster Award-nominated comic writer (Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons, Samurai Jack, Figment). His other creator-owned titles, Glitterbomb and Skullkickers, are also published by Image Comics, the third largest comic publisher in North America.

Cummings is an American comic book artist based in Japan (Deadshot, Legends of the Dark Knight, Street Fighter, Forager).



Monday, May 15, 2017

Catalyst Prime: The Event [Review]


With the Free Comic Book Day comic of Catalyst Prime: The Event, we get to witness the launching of a new comic universe. Catalyst Prime: The Event has echoes of past comics stories like the birth of The Fantastic Four, the White Event in the original New Universe published by Marvel Comics, and the Milestone books published by Milestone Media and published by DC Comics. Each of these comics stories was not only an exploration of "what would happen if?..." but each attempted to look at what could happen if super-powered beings became manifest in worlds that were reflections of the worlds outside of the windows of the comics creators.

This may not have been intentional when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee put together that first Fantastic Four comic, but they created a world that was a reflection of the world that they lived in, complete with people with personal issues and problems. These people lived in a much more complex world than those of previous comic book characters because the world of the Fantastic Four, the worlds of Marvel Comics, dealt with things like politics and coming to terms with their "otherness" in ways that readers who were people of color, or the LGBTQ+ could identify with. Often the creators of these comics could only deal with these issues of otherness in a metaphorical manner, like the mutant X-Men or characters like The Thing that felt like their "monsterness" made them an outsider to the polite society of the rest of the world.

Even when comics like Marvel Comics' New Universe titles had more diverse casts of characters, they would still only deal with a lot of issues in a metaphorical manner. Too much injection of the so-called "real world" would make those who were used to the spotlight of comics characters looking like them feel excluded, as if the representation of characters was a zero sum game. Things like mutants were "okay" as long as they were a metaphor for queer identity, or being a person of color, but too much meant that the people who identified as the core audience for comics felt that they weren't represented.

The debut of the Milestone comics changed a lot of that. Books like Icon or Static or Blood Syndicate or Shadow Cabinet featured character who were African-American, Hispanic or Latinx, Asian and other ethnic groups. Previously there would be non-white characters who would be part of the super group, or who would be the side kick to the white guy super-hero, but now they were getting to be the stars of the books: the headlining heroes and villains of their comic stories. A lot of us take representation in comics for granted because most of the lead characters in the books look like us, but seeing that change, seeing the joy from queer and Hispanic friends as they read comics with characters who looked and loved like they did was a bit of an epiphany for me. And it isn't just that being able to see people who look like you do in comics, for those of us whose ethnicity is on the whiter side of things we get exposed to thoughts and ideas that we wouldn't normally get to see, and this enriches our lives.

So, that is a lot of words about comics that aren't Catalyst Prime: The Event. Written by Christopher Priest and Joseph Illidge, and with art by Marco Turini and Will Rosado, in Catalyst Prime: The Event we get the zero event that launches this new universe. Like with that first Fantastic Four comic, it starts with astronauts going up into space, but instead of it being the space race that impels these astronauts it is instead a potential extinction event. A meteor is coming at Earth, with the potential to destroy it.

This is a story that we've heard before in countless disaster movies of the last few episodes. But is this meteor really as dangerous as it seems? Loreena Payan, the Mexican scientist and business woman who discovered the meteor seems to be manipulating the facts to play things out to her advantage. Is she the hero, or the villain, of our story? It is too early to tell, but whichever path she ends up going down she already has complicated motivations that could make her either, or both, depending upon the story in question. The character of Loreena is obviously going to be the instigator of the Catalyst Prime stories for a while.

The astronauts are believed to be dead, due to the impact with the meteor, but to anyone who has read comics for any period of time it is obvious that, much like the Fantastic Four, the various heroes that we will see debuting in Catalyst Prime books over the next few months will be the astronauts, changed by their encounter with whatever was in space. I would be willing to bet that the debris from the meteor that rained down on the Earth will likely be the trigger event for other super-powered beings within the setting.

I live in one of the seemingly shrinking parts of this country that is an ethnic melting pot. I can turn on the radio, and the television, and hear Spanish voices. I don't have to travel far before billboards and street signs are in Spanish (or at the very least bi-lingual). The trouble is that I don't get to see this world portrayed in the comics that I read very often. I can't imagine what it must be like for the Hispanic people I know, and I wouldn't presume to talk for them. Since it appears that Milestone 2.0 isn't going to happen for a while yet, Catalyst Prime is going to be a window into a world that is like the one that I see every day, outside of my windows and when I go out into it. Is that enough of a reason to call a comic good? I think it is, and I would go a step further and say that comics like this are needed in our comic stores.

Catalyst Prime: The Event is a great comic adventure story. It is entertaining and engaging, and it did exactly what an introductory book is supposed to do: it made me want to read more. It made me want to explore more of this world, and to see the stories of its inhabitants unfold. If your local comic store has a copy of Catalyst Prime: The Event left over from Free Comic Book Day you really need to grab a copy. Then you need to read Noble, the first Catalyst Prime ongoing comic. We really need more comics that are not just diverse, but well-crafted. Catalyst Prime: The Event manages to out Fantastic Four even the Fantastic Four.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Skin & Earth From Lights And Dynamite Comics


I am used to my interests intersecting, but usually because a game I like is adapted to a comic, or a comic that I like is adapted to a game or a movie. This might be one of the few times that a musician that I like is adapting their music to a comic book.

The electro-pop artist Lights is adapting her upcoming album Skin & Earth into a comic book to be published by Dynamite Comics. Skin & Earth is the follow up album to her phenomenal release Little Machines.

If you haven't heard her music, you should.




Lights' music is poppy, but with hidden depths that linger with you after the music. The first song that I ever heard from her was the fluffy "Toes," but it was one of those songs that made me want to listen again and again. I think she is in a similar vein to Ellie Goulding, but not quite as low key as she is. Once you start listening to Lights, you definitely won't want to stop.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this comes out. We need more voices in comics, and I think that this book has the chance to be an extraordinary one.


"I feel my whole life has lead up to a project like this" says Lights. "It's a complete convergence of everything I love - music, comics, post-apocalyptic romance, crystals, wine and powerful ladies, all perfectly entwined. It'll be by far my most care-free and fierce album yet. I think now, more than ever, people need a reason to listen to a whole record, and this is mine."

"In recent years, the worlds of comic books and music have come together to produce some of the most exciting and immersive books on stands," says Dynamite CEO and publisher, Nick Barrucci. "To have the opportunity to work with such a talented and dedicated musician who is both writing and drawing the series herself will be a truly unique treat for both her fans and ours."

The comic series follows a young woman, En - a reflection of Lights herself - as she struggles to find hope in a hopeless world. Caught between romance and cults, gods and mortals, En is led down a dark path by new friends/lovers into a twisted fantasy world, forcing her to dig within and find the strength to overcome. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where corporations rule, Skin & Earth is an adventurous tale of loneliness and deceit, but ultimately becomes one of self-discovery and independence.

Skin & Earth #1 will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors' May 2017 Previews catalog, the premier source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, and slated for release in July. Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies with their local comic book retailers. Skin & Earth will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.



Monday, April 03, 2017

Stop Second Guessing Yourself And Do


If you aren't subscribing to Warren Ellis' newsletter, you should be even if you aren't a comics fan.

In the latest issue he drops a bit of wisdom that I think is of use to anyone creative:
Someone on Tumblr asked me the following question:
Once you've figured out that you're secretly always telling the same story, in one shape or another - how do you get around that? When you get tired of your own moves, however hermetically sealed they might look to a reader outside your head?
And here's my answer:
I’m sure any number of reviewers will tell you that in my case it’s not much of a secret
You’re spending too much time thinking about what other people might think and too much time second-guessing yourself. Go where your energy is, and when you come to a point where you need to make a story choice, go with the less comfortable one. It’s only time and paper.  Ride the wrong way for a while and see what happens.
 Don't second guess yourself, just create.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Chris' Picks For GM's Day


RPGNow/DriveThruRPG often has sales, and I don't usually put lists like this today, but I had a couple of people ask for recommendations on what to pick out from the mass of available games. These are my recommendations, in no particular order. There are a lot of games available, and it will take me a while to work through the list, so I will probably update this a couple of times before the sale goes away.

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure. Hubris is a really interesting setting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (also on sale) that is filled with great monsters and a potent Swords & Sorcery vibe. Usable for any OSR game, or D&D-esque system with a little work. If you want a dangerous setting, this is the one for you.

I was really surprised by the Adventures In Middle-Earth Player's Guide. I will admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Tolkien, but this really surprised me. If you want a dark fantasy setting that has the benefit of familiarity to most gamers, Middle-Earth is where you want to go.

NEW is a dice pool-based game of science fiction. Character creation is robust, but quick, and the game is fast-moving. Unlike some other science fiction games, NEW isn't locked into a particular paradigm or style of science fiction. It also has the benefit of being the base for the rules to the upcoming 2000AD/Judge Dredd role-playing game from EN Publishing. I write for EN World, which is run by EN Publishing, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt if you want.

Now, I am the co-publisher at Battlefield Press, so I was involved with the publication of the Ninja High School RPG (I am also working on the upcoming Fate version of the game). But, I would still recommend this game if I wasn't involved with it. Based on the D6 rules originally published by West End Games, the Ninja High School game is a pretty light game itself. This is probably one of the better uses of the D6 rules that I have seen in a long while.

Delta Green is back! Delta Green is a modern espionage role-playing game powered by the Basic Role-Playing engine. Spies and soldiers attempt to hold back the tide of encroachment of the Cthulhu Mythos. I played in this setting a lot when it was "just" a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. This game is the King (in Yellow) of Cthulhu Role-Playing games.

Colonial Gothic is a horror role-playing game set around the time of the founding of America. Fans of historical settings and horror should check this game out. The system is a unique one, and robust.

As long as I am talking about horror games, be sure to check out the third edition of the classic horror role-playing game Chill. Chill Third Edition is a game of investigative horror and monster hunting. If you're looking for something where the heroes have a bit more of a chance than they might in a more Lovecraftian RPG, you should check out Chill.

Theorems and Thaumaturgy is one of the best third party OSR magic supplements that you will find. I might be slightly biased because the author took a couple of suggestions that I made in putting this expanded second edition together. There are new spells and spellcaster classes designed for Labyrinth Lord, but usable in any OSR game.

Based on the Swords & Wizardry rules (my preferred OSR ruleset), Crypts and Things is a very British take on the old school system. If you were a fan of Warhammer Roleplay, or Games Workshop's old White Dwarf magazine, you'll enjoy Crypts and Things.

I've been a booster of the Hydra Collective designers for a while. If you want some imaginative and psychedelic adventures for your old school fantasy games, you really need to have the modules of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes trilogy: Slumbering Ursine DunesFever-Dreaming Marlinko and Misty Isles of the Eld. Chris Kutalik is one of the most inventive adventure writers in the old school movement currently, and these modules will thrill and freak out your players as they come to terms with the psychedelic fantasy world that he has created.

Inspired by the B/X edition of Dungeons & Dragons and more contemporary games like Dungeon World, The Nightmares Underneath is a "traditional" role-playing game with an nontraditional approach. If you've played classic editions of D&D you'll have this game down in no time at all. The setting of the game uses the inspirations of the Middle East and Northern Africa in its world building.

There's plenty of other games that are available in the sale, but these are some of the ones that I am familiar with. Any of these are worth having on your virtual gaming bookshelves. The sale ends March 13, 2017, so be sure to check it out before then.



Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So There's This Trailer For A World Of Darkness Documentary...



I will admit that I didn't play World of Darkness stuff until fairly recently. I could have been playing it in the 90s, and 90s me was certainly a part of the target demographic, but many of the people who were local to me at the time and who were playing the game just weren't people that I wanted to game with. So, I went off and read my Poppy Brite and Caitlin Kiernan novels in peace and played a lot of Call of Cthluhu and nowhere near as much KULT as I would have liked to have played.

Mostly I'm saying this to set the tone for the rest of this post.

I get that this is a prelude (see what I did there?) to a marketing piece that is supposed to reestablish the coolness of the World of Darkness and the eventual relaunch of games like Vampire and Werewolf. However, if we have learned anything over the last forty some years of tabletop role-playing games, it is that we can market our games without being a dick to people who like other games and styles of play. That lesson seems to have been lost on the people making this "documentary."

Also what seems to have been lost is an actual grasp of the history of role-playing games. Perhaps they could have fixed this by seeking out some outside voices, people who could speak authoritatively on the history of gaming, and its culture. If only there were people who regularly write about tabletop RPGs, and do so in a a way that demonstrates that they have tried to look at the bigger picture of things.

I am committing what I consider to be the biggest Cardinal Sin when it comes to reviewing: "DON'T BASE YOUR REVIEW OFF OF THE TRAILER." I think that if more people lived by that rule, the internet would be a much happier place. Plus if we got rid of the racist, misogynistic homophobes things would be happier too, but that has little to nothing to do with White Wolf and the World of Darkness. The reason why I'm willing to suspend this rule, in this case, has to do with the history of the people who are now in control of the White Wolf intellectual property. These people seem to be overly enthused about a grim and gritty, dark and edgy culture of the 90s that, while popular amongst a particular demographic (I know, because 90s me was all about a lot of this stuff, and I have the autographed print from James O'Barr to prove it), it was a culture that was, in many, many case, predicated on being shitty to other people. And honestly, being shitty to other people is something that geeks can stand to do less of.

There has been a number of weird decisions being made by the current regime at White Wolf, the recent mobile games fiasco being part of that.

It looks like the people running the show at White Wolf is getting the ball rolling to alienate more than a sizable chunk of their audience. I don't know, maybe they'll pull something out of their asses and it will all suddenly make sense and everyone around the world will join hands to sing a Goth Kumbaya set to a back beat of a guy beating on an old, rusty oil drum with a working circular saw. Or maybe not.

The thing is that this really isn't the way to do things in the 21st century. We can make our games, and promote our games, without belittling our fellow gamers. We can sell our games without willfully ignoring the history of tabletop RPGs. We don't have to be dicks, or talk shit about other games to make the games we love look better. We just have to love them. You know what is infectious? Love. You know what turns people off? Being a dick.

Yes, White Wolf turned a cultural corner in tabletop role-playing games with Vampire: The Masquerade. But, not because the mechanical part of the game was revolutionary. We already had dice pool mechanics (any D6-powered game, Champions and Shadowrun). We already had games that handled horror. We already had games that handled relationships (Pendragon or Ars Magica). We had so many different things.

It isn't the 90s any longer. The industry part of the tabletop role-playing industry isn't the same as it was then. The retail landscape isn't the same as it was then, either. And it is more than just the fact that businesses work differently now from then, but it is the fact that the culture of those who play tabletop role-playing games has (for the most part) shifted. Gaming is a lot more diverse. With diversity comes a wider variety of viewpoints. With a wider variety of viewpoints comes the idea that people look for different things to be "adult" and "mature."

It seems like the people who made that trailer have some outmoded sensibilities. I mean, who knows, maybe they're right. There's always going to be a market for angsty, holier-than-thou asshole types. Maybe there is this huge, untapped market of people who want to dust off their NON vinyl and go watch Mark Pauline do a show. I would be incredibly surprised to discover that is true, even though I would personally love a Survival Research Laboratories revival to happen.

I just wouldn't mind seeing gaming grow up more and decide that treating each other like shit wasn't the way to go.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

All Time Comics: The Crime Destroyer Rises


Phrases like "revolutionary" and "redefining the genre" get thrown around a lot when reviewers talk about new comic lines coming out. There's a good chance that I will be using one or the other during the course of this review, too. All Time Comics is a new line of super-hero comics coming out from Fantagraphics Books, spearheaded by writer Josh Bayer.

Reading through the preview of this comic was like rereading the Marvel Comics of my youth. A big part of this feeling comes from the art of Herb Trimpe, which is just as vibrant and energetic as it was in the 1980s. But it is more than just nostalgia that makes me feel this way about the book.



Benjamin Marra's inking brings his dynamic style to the book's artwork. The two artists work creates a look for the book that manages to both be classic and ultramodern at the same time. The art of a comic is important in setting the tone for a book, and Trimpe and Marra create a tone that is dynamic and fast paced.

Crime Destroyer is a grindhouse super-hero comic, the exuberance and excitement of super-hero comics is combined with the grit and violence of grindhouse movies to create a unique sensibility. While this book is a throwback to classic Marvel comics it is no all ages, family friendly book either. It certainly isn't the equivalent of an R or X-rated movie by any means, but it bangs its head against the border between a "hard" PG-13 and an R-rated story. There is gore, blood and dismembered bodies scattered throughout the issue.



Like all good stories, Crime Destroyer is a reflection of its time. The is an overt racism to the villains that make them ideal protagonists to an African-American super-hero. This isn't done in a hamfisted manner, unlike with some more mainstream super-hero comics, but it is there, and discernible. I think this is a good thing, as the racism simmers to the top in our own world that people are reminded that it is representative of villainy. Despite the Germanic mythology motif of the villain, they managed to keep the bad guy of the story from being a literal Nazi. Considering the world that we live in, that might be a good thing.

Comics have been socially aware for a long time now, sometimes it seems like there is a segment of the fanbase that is actively trying to discourage that. I'm glad to see that Crime Destroyer is willing to buck that trend.

On Twitter I called the first two All Time Comics (Crime Destroyer and Bullwhip) the real World's Greatest Comic Magazines. There is an energy to them that has been lacking from a lot of Marvel Comics for a while now, Crime Destroyer brings a lot of excitement back to comics. Be sure to grab a copy from your local comic store.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Love Is Love (Review)


A couple of months ago an historic co-publishing venture from IDW Publishing and DC Comics came out, Love Is Love is an anthology comic made up of 1-2 page stories by a variety of writers and artists. The book is a fundraiser for Equality Florida, an LGBTQ+ equality and justice organization here in my home state.

Stylistically, the book is all over the place. This isn't a bad thing, because it is always good to see comic books remember there is more to them than just the super-hero books.

Love Is Love is a response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida last June. Forty-nine people were horribly and brutally killed. When this happened, my first thought was that I had friends in Orlando that weekend, who could have easily been at the club. I was relieved to find out that they were not. Even so, it took me a while to process, and get past, this brutal act of violence. What happened in Orlando should not have happened. We should be a more civilized and enlightened society that not only knows that these things are wrong, but that also does not erase who the victims were. The Pulse Nightclub shooting was, plain and simple, an act of hate against the LGBTQ+ community here in America. We should not be good with that.

This comic was that processing for many of these characters. The stories are, by turn, frightened, angry and depressed. Justifiably so, as well. Works like Love Is Love are a necessary part of the grieving process of an event like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, because seeing the catharsis of others can help with our own processes.

Love Is Love is a powerful comic book that I think should be read by everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The stories told, while short, are powerful. I hope that people will read it and the emotional outpourings of the stories will change the views of others.

Go out and buy Love Is Love now.



Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Warhammer, Warhammer 1 2 3 4 Smutty, Bloody Pictures, Ecstasy


Comic creator Kieron Gillen has a Warhammer blog over on Tumblr. I didn't realize this, and I never thought that I would talk about it, but he brings up some similar points to things that I've talked about with the old Warhammer stuff, and other British properties, like the Nemesis The Warlock comic by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neil and published by 2000AD.

Read Gillen's post and we can talk about it on the social media where you found a link to this. If you didn't find me directly sharing the link, tag me in it.

He talks about the Warhammer (although he probably meant Warhammer 40K) and how it related to Nemesis:
It’s worth noting that one of the other primary Warhammer influences - and I’d argue THE primary influence on 40k – also uses this dichotomy. 2000AD’s Nemesis the Warlock and associated stories use Law and Chaos, but writer Pat Mills almost always comes down on the side of Chaos. In the universe of Nemesis, the Termight empire of Earth wages a war of genocide against the rest of the galaxy to bring the jackboot down on them forever, chanting catchy slogans like Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave. The diverse aliens have to oppose them. The humans are, without a doubt, the bad guys, and “order” is just another word for “monstrous Imperialism”. The humans are grotesque parodies, but the aliens are also explicitly freakish, but their bizarreness bears no relation to their morality. It’s okay to be a freak. It’s better to be a freak – or rather, better to be what Order would label a freak.
I don't have any direct evidence drawing a line between either Nemesis or 40K directly influencing each other, but I've said for a while that the story of Nemesis The Warlock could be seen as the Imperium of Man from 40K as viewed through the eyes of aliens and Chaos. For those who played the more recent versions of the 40K role-playing game (from Fantasy Flight Games and now out of print) you could almost view Nemesis as being a Black Crusade campaign.

One of those dream projects that I have on my list is one of the few OSR projects that I would want to do. Basically it would be my homage to the Realm of Chaos books. It would be four books, one for each of my reinterpretations of the Chaos Lords and their various followers and retinues, specialized character classes pertaining to them, and other fun things like new spells.

Maybe one day some one with the money will let me collaborate with people like +Alex Mayo and +Benjamin Marra on these books. The books would be fun, but they definitely wouldn't be kid friendly.

Gillen pointed this blog post out in his most recent newsletter, which you should checkout.

Also, if you don't get the reference in the title of this blog post, listen to some L7.




Sunday, February 05, 2017

Joe Haldeman's Forever War Is Coming From Titan Comics (NSFW)


On February 15th, the science fiction classic, The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman is coming from Titan Comics. The visionary Hugo and Nebula Award-winning SF tale by Joe Haldeman is beautifully realised in full color by the legendary artist Marvano. An epic SF war story spanning space and time, The Forever War explores one soldier's experience caught up in the brutal machinery of a war that reaches across the stars.

What follows is an uncensored preview.






Be sure to tell your comic store to reserve a copy for you now. I am going to see about talking with Haldeman before the book comes out. Here are some of the cover variants.








Thursday, February 02, 2017

Valiant Reveals Secret Weapons


As revealed today at Vulture, Valiant is proud to announce that Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer, writer of the internationally acclaimed, smash-hit motion picture Arrival, as well as the upcoming Harbinger and Bloodshot feature films from Sony Pictures, will join Harvey Award-nominated artist Raul Allen (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) with Patricia Martin (Bloodshot Reborn) for Secret Weapons #1 (of 4) – an all-new, Valiant Prestige format limited series starring the much-demanded, super-charged hero Livewire, in June!



The government has dispatched Amanda McKee – the technopath codenamed Livewire – to investigate the ruins of a secret facility formerly run by Toyo Harada, the most powerful telepath on Earth and her former mentor. In his quest for world betterment at any cost, Harada sought out and activated many potential psiots like himself. Those who survived, but whose powers he deemed to have no value to his cause, were hidden away at this installation. But Livewire, having studied Harada’s greatest strengths and learned his deepest weaknesses, senses opportunity where he once saw failure. A young girl who can talk to birds… A boy who can make inanimate objects gently glow… To others, these are expensive failures. But, to Livewire, they are secret weapons…in need of a leader. Now, as a mechanized killer called Rexo seeks to draw them out, Livewire and her new team of cadets will be forced to put their powers into action…in ways they never could have imagined…










Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let's Go To Gen Con GoFundMe Campaign


As we all know, going to Gen Con isn't cheap. Even writing for EN World doesn't help to offset all of the costs of going and covering the convention for you, the readers. I started a GoFundMe campaign to help with some of the costs. In addition to just straight donations, I have a couple of fun pledge levels for it, working around the idea that not everyone can go to Gen Con, but they still want to have some of the experiences of the show.

  • For $5 I will track down a person, place or thing at the convention (1. it has to be gaming related and 2. it has to be safe for work) and take a picture of it. I will then post the picture to an online gallery here and to social media. If you have a Twitter account, I will also tag you in the post.
  • For $10 I will track down a designer or publisher of your request, ask them a couple of questions and post a video of the questions to my YouTube channel. Sorry, but I determine the questions. If the person will not consent to being recorded, unfortunately there aren't any refunds. I will try my best to convince them to let me record them for posterity.
There may be other pledge levels coming, but those are the main ones. They are a good way to augment my coverage of the convention. If you have any questions about the campaign, or would like to know if you can donate in other ways, contact me via the contact box to the left of this post.

I hope to see you at Gen Con this year!