Friday, May 30, 2014

Ordinary By Rob Williams And D'Israeli From Titan Comics

For me, picking up a comic with art by D'Israeli is a no brainer. I've been a fan of his art since Lazarus Churchyard and  Scarlet Traces. If you have no idea what those comics are, you should do yourself a favor and pick them up.

There are two things to think about with Ordinary: 1) this isn't an ordinary super-hero book and 2) this comic isn't anything ordinary.

Michael is a somewhat ordinary guy in Queens. He's a plumber. He's divorced from his wife, who has custody of their kid. He owes a Samoan criminal some money (that part might not be as ordinary). And then something happens...everyone else in the world suddenly gets weird powers or is transformed in some way into something different. It may have been triggered by terrorists, or an airplane accident.

Ordinary is an ongoing from Titan Comics from artist D'Israeli and writer Rob Williams.

Is this the apocalypse? It is hard to tell, but there is a lot happening in this issue. Michael is our eyes and ears into this story, and I like that approach. The fact that we don't know what is going on, why all of this weirdness is happening, gives the story more power. Too often comic stories over explain themselves and take away the mystery and wonder inherent in a lot of genres that are used in them. Writing a review of a new comic is difficult, because you don't want to spoil the story when you want other people to read it, and you want to spread your enthusiasm.

In a few ways, this issue reminded me of the Wildcards series edited by George R.R. Martin. You have the weirdness of super-heroes grounded in a real world, along with a trigger accident that causes the "birth" of super-powered individuals. Fans of that series will probably find this comic to be interesting as well.

Not since Grant Morrison and Richard Case on Doom Patrol have I seen a comic that embraces the strangeness of the super-hero genre and at the same time presents that strangeness in such a matter of fact manner. This book was a page turner, and while I didn't get the explanations that I hoped would come with each new page that didn't disappoint me. What did disappoint me was when I realized that I finished the book and would have to wait a month for the next issue to come.

If you're looking for sophisticated comic story telling devoid of most of the cliches that you will find in those other super-hero books you really need to check out Ordinary. You won't be disappointed. This comic reminds me of the 90s and Vertigo Comics, when you had comic creators who still wanted to use the old super-heroes but tell stories that would appeal to grown-up sensibilities.

You should run out to your comic store (or Comixology, the digital version is available there) and pick this up. You should put it on your pull list and keep getting it, month after month.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shut Yo Mouth - Shaft Comes To Dynamite

Some of you may remember John Shaft from this:

or from this:

but he started out from this:

Screenwriter Ernest Tidyman (who also did the screenplays for The French Connection and High Plains Drifter) created John Shaft in the 1970 novel Shaft because he wanted to create an American James Bond. Why are we talking about Shaft?

Dynamite Comics announced that they've acquired the "comics and prose" rights to Tidyman's creation, including the rights to reprint the original novels and publish new ones. How long until Shaft teams up with the Six Million Dollar Man or The Green Hornet?

From the Dynamite press release:
Ernest Tidyman was quoted on the origins of Shaft: "The idea came out of my awareness of both the social and literary situation in a changing city. There are winners, survivors & losers in the New York scheme of things. It was time for a black winner, whether he was a private detective or an obstetrician."
Curtis Brown literary agent Steve Kasdin, who represents the Tidyman estate said: "The literary craftsmanship that built John Shaft sent him into the world fully formed and moving. You knew who and what he was from Jump Street. So much so that even a less than stellar sequel or two didn't kill his standing. The consensus seemed to be: ‘Oh my Lord, they done put poor Shaft in another bad movie.'  I'm thrilled with Dynamite's vision for Shaft, and look forward to his new adventures."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Talking About Dust Devils by Matt Snyder

I got a copy of the recent Indie Bundle from the Bundle of Holding. As I've waded through them, a couple of games have popped out at me. One of them was Dust Devils from Matt Snyder. As someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I do love Western movies. Between my father having been a fan of them from when he was a kid (back in the movie serial days), and the surge of Spaghetti Westerns during my formative years, escaping an interest in them would have been hard. This is why Dust Devils caught my eye.

A Jon Hodgson cover didn't hurt with catching my eye. With all of the complaining about D&D covers right now in gaming circles, I would like to think that this evocative cover is something that we can all agree upon.

For me, Dust Devils comes across as a reworking of the "Devil And The Bluesman" trope, redone for the Western genre. And, really, it fits well. But there's not a huge amount of difference between the early cowboy music and the Blues, they approached a lot of the same topics coming at them from different angles of entry. The difference is that the  Devil chasing down your Dust Devils character is metaphorical. Or is it? One of the nice things about gaming is that things can be as literal, or as metaphorical as you want. With the game as written, the Devil represents those things about your character's personality or psyche that drives them to do the bad things that they do. This is at the heart of good story telling, having a difficulty that your character has to overcome. Too many games want to make it easy on characters, but I think that the mark of a hero is someone who knows their shortcomings, realizes that they may be too much for them, but still struggles against them. They might not always win, but that doesn't make them less heroic for the trying. This is a valuable life lesson that years of Marvel Comics has taught.

I do think that there is a danger in overwriting the past exploits of the character, between the Devil and the Past of the character. My idea of a character is that is should be allowed to breathe in the current, during play, and that there can be a tendency to throttle that with too much back story from some players. Having a lot of big things in the past can undermine the play of the present, so for me this would be something to watch out for during character creation.

Now, this game isn't going to be for everyone. I'm really not interested in the whole "is it an RPG" territory. It is a storygame and it is one of those games where everyone shares control of the growth and direction of the story. Some people don't like that. A lot of the stuff in the section on conflicts is fairly standard RPG stuff, however, and most gamers (regardless of the types of games that they play) should be able to understand the underlying logic of how things work. The character creation and resolution systems do remind me a bit of the old Hubris Games' Story Engine (now published by Precis Intermedia). The explanation of Devils and how they are used in play remind me a bit about that game, but I could be wrong and it could be an old-fashioned case of parallel development. The main difference is that Dust Devils uses playing cards for it's determination.

Having an explanation of the different poker hands is "handy," because I know a lot of gamers who have never played poker...and having a table to point them towards would be much easier than having to explain it to them. It would even make a handy cheat sheet at the table.

I also like the fact that in Dust Devils stories have an end to them. As I get older, I become lest interested in games that last for years and years, or have no ending in sight. I am becoming more interested in stories with a beginning, middle and (hopefully) an end. Or at least some semblance of these things.

The game also has a lot of good advice for players and narrators. You get a good idea of what you are supposed to be doing with this game. That is something that I like. You also get some interesting worked examples of how to play this game in non-Western situations. Of course one of those examples is about samurai. That's another good thing.

Overall reading Dust Devils did what I think that a good game should do. It made me want to play it. I'm not sure when or how I will get a chance, but this is definitely on my gaming to-do list now.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. Partners With Dynamite Entertainment On Mars

I can say that I didn't see this coming. Considering that not long ago the Burroughs estate was saying that Dynamite's comics were "pornography." Good for Dynamite, but I think that these characters shouldn't be controlled by some company that has nothing to do with the creator. Our copyright laws were created with Public Domain for a reason.

Here's the press release from Dynamite:

(May 19th, 2014 - Tarzana, CA & Mt. Laurel, NJ) - Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., the company founded by the author to protect and maintain his literary creations, and one of the comics industry's leaders, Publisher Dynamite Entertainment, announced today a comprehensive agreement that will see the return of Burroughs' original "John Carter: Warlord of Mars" to the pages of comic books, comic strips and graphic novels.  The agreement allows for the world-wide publication of the John Carter universe as well as "Lord of the Jungle" and ERB's library of archival material.

The initiative comes on the heels of the reacquisition of comic book rights by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. that had been held by Walt Disney Pictures and its Marvel Entertainment subsidiary, as well as a recent legal settlement with Dynamite that cleared the way for Dynamite to introduce key characters and plot elements from the John Carter backstory that were, until now, absent from recent comic book interpretations.

"It was important to us that we reacquire the comic book and comic strip rights from Marvel Entertainment so we could reintroduce them in the market place.  We're excited to see the exploits of Edgar Rice Burroughs' first science fiction adventure hero brought to life in their fullness by the passionate creative talents assembled by the folks at Dynamite," said James Sullos, President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. "They're true fans - and it shows on every page and in every idea they've shared with us.  Now fans everywhere will be able to appreciate the original adventure stories that later spawned Flash Gordon, Superman, Star Wars and Avatar."

"Working together with Jim and the team at ERB, we will be taking the worlds of John Carter and The Lord of the Jungle publishing initiatives to a new level.  There's a rich history, and an incredible amount of archival material in the ERB library, and we're looking forward to bringing it to the fans around the world.  This is the beginning of a great relationship." states Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment. "I can't express how happy and excited everyone at Dynamite is to be working hand in hand with everyone at ERB, Inc".

John Carter debuted in 1912 as the lead character in Edgar Rice Burroughs' first novel, serialized as Under the Moons of Mars in the pulp magazine, The All-Story, and later published as a complete novel retitled A Princess of Mars.  The character excited the imagination of readers and quickly imprinted onto the public psyche. As many literary and popular culture scholars attest, John Carter served as the template for a litany of adventure heroes to follow, from Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and Superman to the Jedi knights of Star Wars fame and most recently, Avatar.

In planning for a late 2014 relaunch, Dynamite Entertainment confirmed that the new comic book series will be titled John Carter: Warlord of Mars.  Dynamite will also republish other John Carter assets, going back as far as the early 1940s comic strips by John Coleman Burroughs, the son of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  
In a related development, new John Carter: Warlord of Mars "adventure strip" episodes will make their online debut in early summer as part of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Digital Comic Strip Service at  Written by the legendary Roy Thomas, with art by Pegaso (Rodolfo Perez Garcia) of Mexico City, this series will invite readers to accompany John Carter and his compatriots on exciting adventures that delve into the rich, storied history of Barsoom (as the inhabitants of Mars refer to their planet).  As with the other nine series featured on the site, including Tarzan and Carson of Venus, the first four episodes of John Carter: Warlord of Mars will be viewable at no charge.

About Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite was founded in 2004 and is home to several best-selling comic book titles and properties, including The Boys, The Shadow, Vampirella, Bionic Man, A Game of Thrones, and more. Dynamite owns and controls an extensive library with over 3,000 characters (which includes the Harris Comics and Chaos Comics properties), such as Vampirella, Pantha, Evil Ernie, Smiley the Psychotic Button, Chastity, Purgatori, and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. In addition to their critically-acclaimed titles and bestselling comics, Dynamite works with some of the most high profile creators in comics and entertainment, including Kevin Smith, Alex Ross, Neil Gaiman, Andy Diggle, John Cassaday, Garth Ennis, Jae Lee, Marc Guggenheim, Mike Carey, Jim Krueger, Greg Pak, Brett Matthews, Matt Wagner, Gail Simone, Steve Niles, James Robinson, and a host of up-and-coming new talent. Dynamite is consistently ranked in the upper tiers of comic book publishers and several of their titles - including Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's Project Superpowers - have debuted in the Top Ten lists produced by Diamond Comics Distributors. In 2005, Diamond awarded the company a GEM award for Best New Publisher and another GEM in 2006 for Comics Publisher of the Year (under 5%) and again in 2011. The company has also been nominated for and won several industry awards, including the prestigious Harvey and Eisner Awards.

About Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
Founded in 1923 by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. holds numerous trademarks and the rights to all literary works of the author still protected by copyright. The company has overseen every adaptation of his literary works in publishing, film, television, theatrical stage productions, licensing and merchandising.  The company is still a very active enterprise and manages and licenses the vast archive of Mr. Burroughs' literary works, fictional characters and corresponding artworks that have grown for over a century.  The company continues to be owned by the Burroughs' family and remains headquartered in Tarzana, California, the town named after the Tarzana Ranch Mr. Burroughs purchased there in 1918 which led to the town's future development.  For more information, please visit

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crowdfunding - Help A Blogger Get To GenCon

If you look to the top right side of this blog you'll see a link to a Fundrazr campaign page. The idea for this is to help fund my going to Gen Con this year (along with other incidental expenses of the blog, like our podcast hosting). Air fare isn't cheap, travelling from the South to the Midwest, particularly when there's a convention going on.

For over 10 years now, the Dorkland! blog has provided news, information and free gaming content without ads or any sort of monetization of the blog. I have also been unemployed for a while now, making these things even more difficult. I know, some will say that being unemployed is a good reason to not go to GenCon, but it makes for a great opportunity for blogging and for freelancing. In addition, as a writer for Bleeding Cool now, I can bring a much wider audience to the new games, news and happenings at GenCon. However, that takes money.

If you have enjoyed any of the free gaming content that I have put up over the years, or if you have received useful information or news over the years, please consider putting some money into the Fundrazor campaign jar. The sooner that the money is raised, the sooner I can stop talking about it here and around the internet.

There are some perks to the campaign, for gamers and publishers who wish to donate a little more money. If you're a publisher, you can get sponsorship of a blog post here at the blog or you can sponsor an episode of the Geeky Voices Carry podcast. What does this mean, exactly? Well, with the podcast it means that we mention your company and/or product at the beginning and end of an episode of our podcast. We will also mention weblinks. It would be something to the effect of "This episode of Geeky Voices Carry is brought to you by..." Sort of like the old soap operas. Sponsorship of a blog post would mean a footer to the post with a reasonably sized image and a link to your site, or perhaps your OneBookShelf pages. Both of these are open for negotiation. Sponsorship mentions will also be included on the YouTube page for the live recording and in the podcast's description. Further details can be worked out, if you want to contact me via the blog.

For gamers, getting one of the perks means that I will run a game for you at GenCon using one of the systems that I have blogged about (either Fate Accelerated or Swords & Wizardry) for you and up to four of your friends.  For the Fate Accelerated game, you can pick one of the mini-settings that I have written about on the blog, while the Swords & Wizardry game will be up to me. It could be a classic adventure reworked for Swords & Wizardry, or it could be something new just for this game. In either case there will also be pictures taken and a blog post made about the game.

I know that gamers like to help out, it isn't something that I am as good about asking for, but I would appreciate any help that I can get. If you can, also please consider spreading this request around the internet. I can use all the help that I can get.

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Summer Game Convention Returns to Milwaukee

Nexus Game Fair Event Registration Begins May 12th, 8:00pm CST

MILWAUKEE, WI – This Sunday is Mother’s Day and Nexus Game Fair is encouraging everyone to spend the day showing their love, respect and appreciation for all mothers. But on Monday, May 12th, Nexus wants you back thinking about summer convention gaming, and to be ready for the start of Event Registration!

Nexus Game Fair has over 400 individual events on their schedule, with a great variety of events spanning across the entire show. From role-playing games to miniatures and collectible card games to board games, there is certain to be something for everyone to enjoy. All events at Nexus are free, once you have registered for a badge, and there will even be tournaments for Magic the Gathering and Netrunner that offer great prizes!

Nexus Game Fair has an impressive list of industry special guests attending, who will be hosting panels and special events throughout the show. The complete list includes:

  • Jolly Blackburn (Knights of the Dinner Table)
  • Mike Carr (Dawn Patrol)
  • Chris Clark (Inner City Games Designs)
  • Dave “Zeb” Cook (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition)
  • Jeff Easley (Staff Artist, TSR, Inc.)
  • Todd Fisher (Revolution & Empire)
  • Matt Forbeck (Deadlands)
  • Kenneth Hite (Trail of Cthulhu)
  • Tim Kask (Dragon Magazine)
  • Dave Kenzer (Hackmaster)
  • James Lowder (Author, Prince of Lies)
  • Matt McElroy (Drive Thru RPG)
  • Frank Mentzer (Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set)
  • Merle Rasmussen (Top Secret)
  • Lester Smith (Dark Conspiracy)
  • Monica Valentinelli (Firefly RPG)
  • James M. Ward (Gamma World)
  • Rob Wieland (Line Developer, Firefly RPG)
  • Skip Williams (Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition)

Nexus Game Fair will be hosting a massive board games library, which consists of nearly 1,100 unique titles. The library, free to attendees, is being provided and run by the Milwaukee Company of Gamers (MilCoG), an association of gamers located throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

“We’re excited to bring summer convention gaming back to Milwaukee,” says Event Manager Harold Johnson, the former director of Gen Con in Milwaukee. “It’s been 12 years since Gen Con left the city and Milwaukee is eager to become a summer destination for gamers once again.”

Nexus Game Fair runs Thursday, June 19th, through Sunday, June 22nd. A 4-day badge for the convention is $45, and the convention hotel, the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, is offering a special rate of $99 per night for show attendees. Only a few rooms remain, so be sure to make your reservation soon!

For more information and to register for the show, please visit

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Secrets Behind The Naming Of The Fantasy Trip RPG

One of the cool things about being a blogger is that you get to take part in interesting conversations, and when you ask odd questions of people they take you seriously. Yesterday, over at Google+ James Maliszewski asked if anyone knew how the early Steve Jackson game The Fantasy Trip got named (I would link to the discussion, but it was a private one, so you'll have to settle for this). The conversation ensued, and no one really knew, but there was a lot of speculation about it having to do with drugs. I figured the easy thing to do was ask the man himself. A few emails and hours later, and a response from Steve Jackson was in my email inbox.
You know how hard it is to come up with an interesting and original fantasy game name now? It was hard even back then.
I don't know whose idea that name was; all I remember of the discussion was that everyone agreed that it would not be two alliterative words separated by "and."  I'm sure it was not intended as a drug reference.
[W]hile I have always been good with the name, I'm pretty sure it was not my own idea - it just doesn't "sound" like me.
So there we have it. The complete answer is unfortunately lost, but enough is still remembered to be useful. Will that stop some from still asserting that the title was a drug reference? Probably not.