Tag Archives: Marvel

Marvel Comics in the 2000s

Introduction

Promised for a week or so and finally recorded, Chris and I talked about 1990s comics. I already did three articles on Marvel, DC, and Image comics in the 1990s. But, I like to make sure that the articles match what is on the podcast for that week. Therefore, I have to keep writing about comic books this week. In keeping with my previous theme of reminiscing about my time in Magic the Gathering, I figured I can keep talking about my recent history with comic books.

The 1990s are when I discovered comics. The 2000s are when I rediscovered comics. I found a local comic store in the neighboring town of Athol. Due to rent concerns and low profit margins on comics, he moved the store to Orange. It was right down the street from my house. Instead of having to drive 5 minutes, I only had to walk 5 minutes. It didn’t hurt that the guy was friendly and would talk to me every time I was in the store. Also, it was just a great time to get back into comic books.

It was wonderful. Then, of course, my backwards town somehow screwed it up and the guy closed shop permanently.

Marvel Comics Pop Culture in the 2000s

I went into great detail in my Marvel Comics in the 1990s article about how pop culture was instrumental in shaping my comic book interests. While my interests were mostly cemented by the time I rediscovered comics in the 2000s, it was the time that comic book movies started to grow up. We were still a couple of years away from the birth of the current golden age of the MCU, but something big happened in the early 2000s.

Marvel Comics took a bit of a risk. They released a new Spider-Man movie. Even though it doesn’t seem like it now, I say that they took a risk. Historically comic book movies were terrible. Even as they figured things out in those early days, there was still a clunker every now and then.

While I didn’t mind it, the first Hulk got mostly negative reception and it took them a while to find a Hulk that worked on the big screen.

Spider-Man was the first comic movie experience that was positive. Somehow, I convinced my wife (who is not a comic book fan at all) to come see the movie with me. I also convinced her to see the re-released Star Wars movie. While it took her until Episode 7 and Rey to truly embrace Star Wars, she was on board with Spider-Man from the beginning. Granted, things got weird at the end when they tried to do Spider-Man No More and Venom in the same movie, but I think we can all agree that they’ve figured things out.

Marvel Comics (Not Civil War or Hulk) in the 2000s

You are probably wondering why I’m not including Civil War in my discussion. It is the defining event of the decade and it might be (since the movie) one of the most recognizable crossover events in comics. Sure, Infinity War has recently surpassed it. When Captain America Civil War released into the theaters, though, it got my formerly comics deficient friend to start talking about comics and he is willing to discuss the movies with me if not the books.

He’s a history guy, though, so this might have been his idea of comic book civil war.

Because it was so influential, I’m going to give it a separate section for discussion. Why Planet Hulk? Even though it isn’t as influential outside of the comic book world, I prefer Planet Hulk to Civil War. Therefore, it gets its own section.

Other than those two events, Marvel had a pretty good run during the decade. Books that I continued to collect after the events were over include Cable and Deadpool and Thunderbolts. Warren Ellis wrote Thunderbolts. He gained a fan for life with his depiction of the dysfunctional super villain team. In fact, I started my Warren Ellis collection with his series New Universal.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Marvel comics did during the decade was the Ultimate line. It reinvented the Marvel comics universe to possibly new fans. Familiar faces acted in unfamiliar ways. It didn’t always work. Weirdly, Hulk was a cannibal. Often, it did. Ultimate Fantastic Four introduced the Marvel zombies. Sometimes it reminded me of the “good old days”. I experienced one of the most frustrating release delays since the days of Image.

I’m looking at you Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. You don’t rip a man in half and then delay the next issue indefinitely.

Planet Hulk

I don’t know what the reaction to Planet Hulk was from most comic book fans. I do know that it hasn’t been turned into a movie. Oh, sure, there was the animated movie. Also, it was given a minor treatment in Thor: Ragnarok. We have yet to see Planet Hulk staring Mark Ruffalo. It’s too bad, too, because the Hulk in Ragnarok was so much fun and I’d love to see a movie starring him.

My only request is that Greg Pak is consulted if the movie is green lit. Initially, I didn’t pay attention to writers and artists. I knew names from my previous experience with comic books. But, the fallout from the creation of Image comics brought an influx of new talent. One of the new writers that I would come to enjoy (and ultimately admire due to his Twitter feed) is Greg Pak.

Planet Hulk is pretty much the whole reason I’m a Greg Pak fan.

I’ve always been a fan of the Hulk. I enjoy the Jeckyll and Hyde nature of the character. It intrigues me that Marvel made their heroes more human with potential human issues. Hulk explores the psychological terror of multiple personalities with respect. Sure, as with all comics, they lose their way and go off the rails sometimes. Mostly, though, the Hulk struggle is one worth following.

This story dealt less with that because Hulk was the dominant personality. But, seeing Hulk finally get his wish of “wanting to be alone” initially. Then, he became the leader of the rag tag group of gladiators. Finally, he fulfilled his destiny as the Worldbreaker. It is probably one of the most fun Hulk stories ever.

Marvel Civil War

When I was in the comic book store looking for books, I noticed a banner in the corner of the Marvel comics. It said, “Whose side are you on?” There might have even been the Civil War logo. But, there was definitely a date when the event was scheduled to start. Instead of guessing, I just went searching through my books for an example, but I can’t find one.

I hope this isn’t one of those Mandela effect things.

In any case, I went home to research Marvel Civil War. I learned that it was going to be a huge crossover event that was going to sucker me into buying 25-30 books a month for the duration. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Some of them even became a part of my regular collection. Most of the titles, though, I just bought for the event. Even so, it was all worth it.

I wasn’t around for Inifinity War. I do understand that it was probably the most ambitious crossover event of the time and maybe in history at that time. So, I can understand the nostalgia that people have for the event and why all others are compared to it. I might go back and read it sometime to see if it lives up to the hype.

As Civil War was my first mega crossover event, I will compare all future events to that one. If you look back on my Secret Empire review articles, I mention Civil War more than once. It was a well crafted story that dealt with current events. Some people have recently decried the inclusion of politics into their comics, but that’s usually just a deflection because they don’t agree with the politics. While Secret Empire felt a bit too real for me and I had to take a break, I never had that problem with Civil War. Probably just too young and dumb.

The Verdict

I discovered comics during the 1990s. I fell in love with them during the 2000s. Marvel went a long way to making sure that love stayed true. I will talk about my experiences with DC and Image, of course, but what kept me going back to the comic book store (that was only a 5 minute walk away, I stress) were Civil War and Planet Hulk.

Marvel Zombies were cool for a while, too. I’m not sure why I wasn’t on board with them beyond the first title. Zombie fatigue, probably.

So, when I say that I’m a lifelong Marvel zombie, that’s not entirely true. Traditionally, I do like the Marvel characters better than the DC characters. Also, the last two times that I’ve gotten back into comics have been because of Marvel events. My sentiment is changing some recently because I prefer DC to Marvel right now. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, you could make mine Marvel.

Marvel Comics in the 1990s

Introduction

Chris and I are going to record the second episode of Comic Hunters this week. We might even be in the same room for the first time since the relaunch of the podcasts. We are going to the local comics superstore, That’s Entertainment, a trip that has now been a month in planning. After, we will most likely record the show.

Update: As often happens, our plans have changed. We are not going to That’s Entertainment. We are still recording. However, we won’t be in the same room.

Our topic for this show is going to be our affinity for 90s comics. We touched upon this topic in the first show. I was so excited and inspired by the unexpected revelation that we may have met before we met (listen to the show and it will make sense) that I wanted to travel back in time to revisit that era of comics that means so much to the both of us.

And we don’t even have to negotiate with Libyan terrorists to make the trip.

Marvel Comics in the 1990s and Me

It’s been a while since I’ve had to take the nerd walk of shame. I believe in being open and honest, though, so it has to be said. First, some background. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an unabashed Marvel zombie. My favorite heroes are often from Marvel, I’ve been enjoying Marvel movies since the original Spider-Man franchise (yes, even number 3), and it is most often a Marvel event that gets me back into collecting comics.

You can probably guess where I’m going.  In case you don’t, let me explain. Everything I said in the previous paragraph is true. I’m not lying about being a huge fan of Marvel properties. What isn’t 100% accurate is that comics sparked my interest. In fact, the reason that I liked Spider-Man was because of the Saturday morning cartoon and my original Hulk was Lou Ferrigno. That doesn’t make me unique, but it isn’t quite the lifelong fandom that I’ve portrayed in the past.

I had no idea darkness awaited me in those funny pages once Kevin finally got me into a comic book store.

Once I got a taste of comics, I was hooked. That all happened when I was in high school and a store opened up a quick bike ride from my house. Kevin and I rode up there weekly to buy new books. In just a short period of time, I amassed quite the collection of comics. I’d be lying again if I said they were mostly Marvel books. You will see in the other two articles that I have planned for this week that I was much more into the DC and Image titles at the time. Still, there were some Marvel books that made it into my rotation.

Obscure Marvel Heroes and Me

Sure, I knew about Spider-Man and Hulk. I also quickly learned about Captain America, Iron Man and The Punisher. I collected none of those books. That’s not to say that I was a total comics hipster. After playing the X-Men arcade game, I started collecting most of the mutant books. I’m not sure how obscure it was at the time, but I was also a fan of Ghost Rider due to Mark Texeira’s art. That led to me collecting the Rise of the Midnight Sons mini series and the books that followed. I suppose that this isn’t doing much to bolster my non-hipster cred.

Especially since most people probably think of the Capcom fighter Darkstalkers when you mention Nightstalkers.

My true loyalty was to the unsung heroes of the Marvel Universe. The ones who show up every now and then to provide background color in epic two page spreads. They are the the heroes that are sometimes called the “B” or “C” or sometimes even the “Z” team. If you thought that Nightstalkers was a deep cut (and honestly, that might be the deepest cut of the ones I’m about to mention) then we aren’t going to get much shallower. Luke Cage, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange were my must collect books after the X-Men titles. Sure, those guys are all superstars now, but that’s mostly due to changing demographics and a conscious attempt by Marvel to play to those changes. Back then, they were fringe characters at best but certainly not the headliners that they are today.

Marvel 2099

Aside from that, the best part of Marvel in the 90s actually happened one hundred years in the future. Not to be outdone by the launch of Image comics, Marvel experimented with their 2099 lineup. By this time, I was very much a collector and understood the potential value of the number “1” on a cover of a comic book. Honestly, that’s the only reason that I started collecting the 2099 books.

Okay, the covers were another incentive, but that has more to do with me being easily distracted by shiny objects.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed the books. Very much. It went from getting the first issues (which you’ll learn later in the week I also did with the Image books) to buying them on a weekly basis to really enjoying the writing and the art. I’m finding that, unlike many nerds, I’m not as married to tradition as they might be. I liked that the 2099 heroes all had their own world in which to play. It was enough like our own to lend it plausibility, but different enough to give it a different feel and history.

When I got back into collecting, one of the first things I did was attempt to replace as much of my 2099 collection as possible. I thought I did a good job, which I have since filled in more. That’s it. I’m done. I’ve got all of the 2099 books. Spider-Man, Ravage, Doom, X-Men, limited Hulk series, and the 2099 Unlimited. Nope, I quickly learned. There were at least Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider books, too. When I learned about Ghost Rider, I remembered it from the original collection. Oh well, a collection is never complete.

The Verdict

For my money, if only the 2099 books came from the 1990s, I’d be a happy person. The world was so well realized and spoke directly to my teenage self. Of course, there are other stories, characters, writer, and artists that have come from the period, too. As I wasn’t as much of a fan of Marvel comic books then, I have been a little late to the party and it always surprises me how much great talent came from that time.

Chris and I will talk more about the actual artists and writers that came from this often overlooked period in the history of comics. We will touch on the issues that may lend to its status as one of the more underrated eras in comic books. People laugh and sometimes cringe when you bring up the 90s as the period that killed the industry. That might be true. But, from those ashes, we stand on the cusp of a potentially new golden age.

Comic Hunters 001 – Our Comic Book CV

Introduction

We start the series by talking about what got us into comic book collecting. There is also a surprise reunion at one of our favorite comic book and gaming stores!

We love 90s Comic Books (15:50)

We continue to reminisce by taking about one of our favorite decades in comics, the 1990s. Spawn, 2099, and X-Cutioner’s song, oh my! Look for a deep dive on this topic in a future episode.

Comic Books as Therapy (22:50)

We talk about what comic books mean to us as a social hobby and an escape from reality.

Comic Books as Collectors (26:22)

A visit to a local comic book show inspires us to organize and inventory our collections, which then inspires us to go to Midtown and eBay to buy more comic books. We talk about which books we’re looking for and why.

Nerd Rage? (36:33)

A brief memorial to 2099 leads to both of us trying to figure out where all of the nerd rage and hate comes from. Why didn’t you like the new Marvel heroes? What is wrong with rebooting the numbering every few years? We have some theories.

More Comic Books as Collectors (46:45)

Another brief discussion of books that we’d like to collect. X-Men Volume 1 and Marvel Team Up are prominently featured.

Diversifying Nerddom (51:00)

A chance meeting during Free Comic Book Day leads us to consider why nerds aren’t as welcoming as they could be and a way to possibly remedy that situation. (Spoiler Alert: Just be nice!)

Comics Hunter

Introduction (My Brief History in Comics)

Over the weekend, I realized that I never edited nor posted the comics themed podcast that Chris and I recorded a couple of weeks ago. The realization came as my computer was out of commission during our scheduled recording time for the main title podcast. It works out for this week. I can just release it this week and we can record for next week. The only issue is that I did both of my “state of” articles last week. I might be able to do them monthly, but it will more likely be every other month. I certainly wouldn’t do them weekly. As a result, I had to come up with two different comic themed articles for this week to stay current with the podcast.

I’m not sure, other than the articles last week, if I’ve mentioned Chris and my newly discovered love of comic books. Mine is more newly discovered than his as he generally has a smaller reading list than me and thus doesn’t have to spend as much. I did find a cheaper way to read the comics digitally, but I found myself missing the hunt, so to speak. I’m a collector at heart, so it just didn’t feel right not having those issues.

To set the scene for new readers, I have been collecting comic books since I was in high school. I’ve been collecting Magic the Gathering cards for almost as long. Sounds impressive, no? Imagine all of the profits from those books and cards that I sold. I should be retired on some tropical island surrounded by beautiful people and sipping on a never ending line of drinks with umbrellas in them, right?

Alas the closest I have come is I drank way too many free mai tais on a sunset cruise during our honeymoon in Hawai’i.

Granite State Comics Fest (April 22, 2018)

Why am I not? The short version of the story is that I haven’t been collecting comic books the whole time. I do take breaks every now and then, one time for almost a decade. Another tiny problem is that I threw away all of my comics from when I was a teenager. My wife (then my fiancee) and I moved a bunch before we found our house. During one of those moves, I decided I didn’t want to move the comics anymore. If I had anything worth anything it was either poached by a dumpster diver or recycled into printer paper.

During this most recent break, Chris has been in constant contact. He’s told me about all of the cool stuff in DC’s Metal event. He’s tried to convince me, more than once, that Midtown’s discount is worth it. As a quick aside, he finally got me on board with that one. I’m quite stubborn sometimes, but eventually make the right choice.  I wasn’t ever completely out this time.

The true turning point came during our visit to the Granite State Comic Fest. Both he and I went to the larger convention several years ago. I saw that they were doing a smaller show and suggested that we go. He agreed and both Liam and Aiden expressed interest in joining us. It is one of the most fun days I’ve had in the last few months. More than that, it gave me additional reasons to want to collect comics books.

What’s Next? (Comics on my List)

Our trip to the comic fest and a costly trip to a local store inspired to update my inventory.  I’m a bit jealous of the set up that Chris has for comics now and I want one, too. With renewed purpose and focus, I can do that.

My first idea was to fill out my Spawn run as much as I could. That’s not entirely true. I said to Chris, “I want a full run of Spawn. Shouldn’t be too hard.” Spawn is the first comic not named Spider-Man that made a strong connection. Unfortunately, it has been much harder than I anticipated to pick up the missing books. I guess I still have a 1990s over production mindset and one of the times that I took off collecting must have been lean for Spawn. As Chris tells me, we’ll find them eventually.

After I fill in all of my interested titles from the Rebirth relaunch, I want to start working backwards to the “Final Crisis”. I have some New 52 titles and I have most of the Countdown books. Filling in the New 52 will be an impressive accomplishment. Chris told me this one might be difficult, too. I can fill in with trades. Not as interesting, collector wise, but I’m not going to be an issue snob in the face of overwhelming prices.

I have a few ideas for my Marvel collection. I’m only a couple of issues short of completing Totally Awesome Hulk. I also have most of the (She-)Hulk series that was just cancelled. Other than that, I went crazy on eBay and bought a whole bunch of Marvel Team Up issues and am going to work on finishing that whole run as I’m less than a dozen missing.

Conclusion

I enjoy reading comics. Especially now, the stories and art are great in almost every book that you get. I should know, I had a 50 dollar a week habit for a while. Like Magic the Gathering, which I enjoy playing, I am more of a collector. I love opening packs and seeing what cards I have and need to finish a set. With comics, I enjoy the books. There’s also something to be said for scratching that itch that you get when you realize there’s a book missing from your collection. I’ve been scratching that itch quite a bit recently. Stay tuned to see if I can keep the momentum.

State of Marvel Comics

Chris and I recorded a pilot for a new show this weekend about comics. In the episode, we mostly talked about our history with comics. For future episodes, we hope to discuss titles, possibly eras of comics (we both stubbornly still like the 1990s in spite of all the flaws), and of course the big two, DC and Marvel. I hope to take the lead in that last topic this week by writing a couple of article about the states, as I understand them,  of our favorite (or maybe just favorite to hate since this is is the age of internet trolling) comic book companies.

As a consequence of that parenthetical, I will lay some ground rules. Do arguments about politics in comic books excite you? You’ve come to the wrong place. If you want analysis of current trends and what they might mean for future decisions, look elsewhere. What about deep financial insight into the industry? I can’t provide that. What I can do is give you one fan’s opinion of Marvel Comics and how likely it is that I’ll continue to collect them beyond the ones that I consider necessary. For those keeping score, that’s Spider-Man and Hulk.

And, if Marvel ever wants to take all of my money, Spider-Hulk!

The State of Marvel Comics (as I see it)

Chris and I touched on this a bit during the podcast episode, but we didn’t dig too deeply this time. I don’t want to step too much over that conversation here. However, I know that in text conversation, we’ve both discussed our concern about Marvel Comics and that one of the episodes of the comics podcast will revolve around our thoughts concerning the company. My main problem with comics generally, and Marvel comics specifically, is cover price. As that is something that I can’t do anything about and Marvel has repeatedly said they won’t do anything about, I will leave that point for the next section.

Another topic of conversation between Chris and I has been the “reboots”. I was on board with Secret Empire story line. In fact, it was that story that got me to start collecting again. I was even with the for their “Legacy” reboot. Heck, I though, it worked for DC Comics with “Rebirth”, so why not try it. I just saw earlier this year (and it is reflected by the books being posted on my pull list) that they have another reboot planned.

Again, this is not entirely without precedent. After their Infinite Crisis event, DC launched the New 52. I have no idea if this was the plan the entire time or not, but those titles only had 52 issues and then led right into Rebirth. Also, this article isn’t about DC. That article is coming either tomorrow or Friday.

New 52 also introduced me to the dream team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, so I’m willing to give it a pass.

Back to Marvel, the rebooting titles soon after a reboot has happened before. Furthermore, it has been successful. However, and this is what bothers me slightly about it, now that I think about it, the new 52 into Rebirth makes sense as a planned event. This move by Marvel feels more like the panicky decision of people who have run out of ideas.

My future with Marvel Comics

First, let’s address the topic of cover prices. I already said that nothing is most likely going to be done about it. So, why bring it up? Well, they are the main reason that I took my most recent break from comics. I was fully ready to just let them be a part of my past with maybe the occasional visit to a flea market, convention, or dollar bin. Then, Chris convinced me to try Midtown because they offer cheap cover prices. He then found out about DCBS and their prices are even lower. Cover prices shall no more be a gate beyond which I can’t pass.

Because, DC might be drawing some cool things, but this line is no longer one of them.

It’s still too early in the process for me to know if the rebooting a reboot will work out for Marvel as it seems to have for DC. I will say that I’m keeping an open mind about it. If, in fact, it is a plan to remove some of the messiness of recent story lines and streamline their line up, then I’ll happily eat my words. I did say to Chris a few weeks ago that I was combing through archives of the page and found an article bashing DC for what Marvel is doing right now, so things can definitely change. I will finish with this. For the first time ever, as one of the most unabashed Marvel zombies out there, I have more DC titles on my pull list than Marvel.

2 Generations Gaming 2017 in Review

Introduction

It’s the first day of 2018.A� This is the time every year that is traditionally set aside for reflection on the previous 365 (or 366) days.A� There are countdowns, marathons, and years in review.A� This article falls into the last category.A� While it has been difficult to maintain a consistent video or podcast schedule, I’ve done okay at updating the web page with at least one article a month.A� I’ve also kept busy with plenty of other geeky fun.A� Let’s reminisce on the best, the worst, and the ugliest.

The Good

APBA Baseball:A� I only recently rediscovered this game in one of my closets and I’m going to write an article this week about the couple of games I played last week.A� I know that others might prefer Strat-O-Matic or another simulator, but this is the only one I’ve played and it does what I want it to do.A� Overall, this has been a great addition to my gaming life again and I can’t wait to dive deeper into the baseball simulation greatness.

Mobile Gaming:A� Old school favorites like Candy Crush and Angry Birds.A� New favorites like Sim City Build It, Fallout Shelter, Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest, and Pokemon Go.A� All of these games have been played with great regularity over the past year on my phone.A� In fact, most of my video game time has been spent on my phone.A� That’s saying something for a person who used to denigrate all mobile games as shovelware.

Eternal/Hearthstone:A� Yes, these are both games that could have technically been included in the mobile section.A� However, they’ve had more impact on me than the other games included in that list.A� I started playing Eternal during one of my rage quits from Hearthstone earlier in the year.A� I had seen Brian Kibler playing the game on stream and figured I’d give it a chance.A� I’m glad that I did.A� While I don’t play it as much as when I first started, it still has a place in my weekly rotation.A� I have had an up and down relationship with Hearthstone.A� However, as I said to Chris a couple of days ago, I seem to have found my comfort zone in the game.A� I have little to no interest in competitive play of any sort.A� I generally just log in every couple of days to do quests, earn gold, and every now and then win a pack that I won’t open.

Comics:A� 2017 was the year that saw me get back into comics.A� Marvel’s Secret Empire event led to a discovery of the well executed DC Rebirth titles.A� Following them for a few months led right into Metal and sticking with Secret Empire to the end let me experience the start of Legacy.A� Almost all of these events were well executed, but it wasn’t all good for comics this year.A� More on that later.

Magic the Gathering:A� You wouldn’t think that I’d rank this so highly in the good category.A� Given that Chris and I discussed a few times how little we had played the game this year.A� I wasn’t even watching streams.A� It just looked like the game had run its course for us.A� Then, a couple of things happened.A� Well, on my end, one major thing happened.A� During one of our summer trips, I played Magic with all three boys.A� First, we played a couple of two headed giant games with decks that I had built over the years.A� Then, I picked up the Nicol Bolas box set and finally the Explorers of Ixalan.A� We haven’t played the Explorers yet, but there is time.A� Any game that gets me closer to my kids is a great game.

The Best:A� I know that it came late in the year, but any time a Star Wars movie is released and it is half decent, that will be the best thing about my year.A� When it is one of the best of the franchise, it will be the best thing of the decade.A� When I get to experience it with my kids and father in law, it just might be one of the highlights of my life.A� I won’t say much more because I have an article planned to go into more detail, but I absolutely loved this movie and it was a perfect way to start my holiday break.

The Bad

No New Console:A� This is the first year in a few that we haven’t gotten a new console.A� I was going back and forth for a few weeks on whether or not to buy an XBox One Minecraft edition.A� I’ve had my eye on it for a while.A� Then, there seems to have been a mix up with my last December check and unless I sub in January, I won’t get paid at all, so economics won out.A� Liam did buy himself a Gamecube and we found the Dreamcast (but it needs to be repaired), so there are some “new” games being played right now, but no new hardware makes me feel a bit sad.A� We won’t be down for long, though.A� We are looking at a Switch and I’m almost positive that I’ll get an XBox in February.

The Worst:A� Only two for this one?A� Yep, and only two for the next one, too.A� By now, you should know my very positive outlook on things and this shouldn’t come as a surprise.A� Also, the fact that I just talked so much about how comics were a good thing this year might also make this choice for “the worst” seem weird at best and probably perplexing.A� But, I have a valid explanation.A� I loved the stories and art of the comics, but hated the cover prices.A� I was spending far too much money on them and I couldn’t justify doing so anymore.A� At least with games, I get massive replay value from them and they allow me to spend more time with my kids.A� Comics did neither of those.A� It was 3-7 dollars spent on 10-15 minutes of enjoyment.A� That’s just awful.

The Ugly

Our Podcast Lineup:A� I was just talking to a friend (and one of the first fans of the page) about the 2 Guys Gaming podcast.A� He said something about how he thought it was damn good and that it could have been something.A� Not one to take compliments very gracefully, I changed the subject quickly.A� However, the podcasts are fun for me to do and I really want to get back to doing them.A� There have been a few that I listen to that have taken long breaks and come back stronger.A� One, in particular, stopped and started a few times, but it is again one of my favorites.A� So, our planning is ugly, but hopefully by this time next year, it will be good.

Nerd on Nerd Violence:A� This is something that I’ve often spoken against.A� However, as nerd culture has become popular culture, the nerd on nerd violence has increased to an unacceptable level.A� It used to be that when you were picked on by somebody, you always had your nerd buddies to get your back.A� If there was an actual fight, you’d all get your butts kicked, but they were there to take your mind off of being the brunt of some sort of physical or psychological abuse.A� Now, some of the worst abuse of nerds is coming from other nerds.A� It isn’t just good-natured joke fights about whether Star Trek or Star Wars is better.A� It’s full on attacks of each other and the things we hold dear.A� I’m going to talk about this more in my Star Wars article and it might just be that all violence is increasing, but this makes me incredibly sad.

The Verdict

2017 wasn’t all fun and games.A� It wasn’t all poorly executed puns, either.A� It was a good bordering on great year that gives us an excellent foundation to make 2018 even better.A� Happy New Year, All!A� Make it the best one ever!

The State of Comics

Introduction

I guess you could say that I’m concerned about the future of comic books.A� Over the last few days, I’ve had two conversations with two different people (Chris and my cousin) about Marvel comics mostly.A� Neither conversation was completely out of context, but they were both initiated by me.A� I’m not usually one to fall into the trap of nostalgia, but there are a few things from my childhood that trigger it.A� As I have recently learned, comics are definitely in that category.

The Good

I mentioned that both conversations revolved around Marvel.A� I also wrote that I’m concerned about where comics are going.A� So, you can probably deduce that there might not be much in this section about Marvel.A� As you’re right, I will start there in an attempt to build some positive capital so that it doesn’t look like I’m piling on later.

First, other than the slightly (but understandable) disappointing ending, Secret Empire was a good story.A� Nick Spencer took what could have been a disaster and made it work.A� Then, while I didn’t like all of the titles that have come out of Legacy, I did like the idea of tying the past to the present and attempting to build a bridge to the future.

You can see from the cover that they had a slightly darker ending initially. However, apparently due to fan pressure, they succumbed to the obvious. More on that soon.

So, decent stories and characters, what’s the problem?A� Patience.A� I will get to the bad and ugly (in spite of my promise of possibly doing away with this format) in the net sections.A� For now, that is the good of Marvel.A� In contrast, DC not only has good stories (better than Marvel some would say), but their cover prices are so much less.A� I know that sounds odd when the difference is only one dollar, but a dollar per books adds up.A� At the standard prices of 2.99 v. 3.99, you get an extra DC book per $12 spent.A� If you were on a $50 a week habit like me, that’s four books a week.

As a result, even if the books are of equal quality, the DC books will have more value.A� That point, in fact, came up in my conversation with Chris.A� He said how he wasn’t buying Marvel anymore unless they were on clearance.A� He then went on to mention that he thought the DC books were of better quality.A� I initially agreed and probably still do.

However, the more that i thought about it, the more that I realized that might be a false narrative.A� At the least, it is an exaggeration.A� Sure, Batman is the best book currently and might be one of the best ever.A� Scott Snyder has blown it out of the stratosphere with Metal.A� After those and maybe Tom King’s other book, Mr. Miracle, there is a definite drop off in quality.A� I sense a turn for the negative here, so let’s trot out that by line.

The Bad

In contrast to the last section, I am going to start out with DC here to keep the thought going and then switch to Marvel, because as it stands, the only ugly is going to be Marvel, so that thread will continue from this section into that one.A� I’ve already said that most, if not all, of the DC books have good characters and stories.A� Their Rebirth has been a reboot that has worked on so many levels.A� However, it hasn’t all been completely positive.A� Other than the books mentioned in the last section, there isn’t much that is worth the cover price.A� Wonder Woman without Greg Rucka has been quite the drop off.A� No other book makes me want to shell out 2.99 for 32 pages worth of entertainment.

I get that creators need to do what they enjoy and I actually like Black Magick very much, but I selfishly want him back on WW.

Well, if there’s nothing in DC that I’m willing to pay 3 dollars for, then there’s certainly nothing that Marvel is putting out right now that I’d pay 4 dollars for.A� I liked Secret Empire and was willing to give Legacy a chance.A� I liked that, too, and especially liked that it wasn’t a reboot.A� However, all of this was secretly while hoping that they might come to their senses and drop their cover prices.A� They never did, so I’m officially out again from comic collecting.A� I just cannot justify the price for what I’m getting.

The Ugly

So, perhaps I’m part of the problem.A� The other major revelation came during the conversation with my cousin.A� It actually started while I was talking to Chris, but when combined with the subject matter of the conversation with my cousin, it crystallized into a more solid form.

My cousin and I were talking about the new Star Wars movie (impressions coming in a couple of days), and I said something about Star Wars fans being the worst, but Marvel comic fans giving them a run for their money.A� While talking to Chris, I made the point that comic fans have disproportionate power right now.A� Star Wars can tell each individual fan to go fly a kite because they’re still going to make a billion dollars on every movie.

The profit margin is so low for comics and the audience is so small that every fan they lose is a huge blow to the bottom line.A� I thought that Disney might allow the comics division to be a loss leader because the movies have proven to be a money printing machine.A� Perhaps that was true for a while, but there seems to be a turning tide and that they are putting pressure on the comic guys to deliver the goods.

This is how I imagine all the Broflakes who get mad about the changes to the Marvel universe.

The main driver for this train of thought is that they are killing the Guardians of the Galaxy (or that was the chatter a couple of weeks ago) book in January even though it is one of their better movies.A� Chris mentioned that Marvel just doesn’t have the talent that DC does and I reiterated my point that they could drop the price, try out some “new” talent, and take a chance.A� However, that doesn’t seem to be an option anymore and now they’re stuck with this mess of a situation and no good plan as how to proceed because their fans have dictated so much of their recent plans.

The Verdict

Things don’t look good for comics.A� Like I said to my cousin, because he’s not a comics fan, just a fan of the movies, “Who cares, right?”A� Well, I care.A� Comic books were an outlet for an awkward teenage me and they have been a steady force in my life ever since.A� Whenever things start to get a bit too chaotic in the real world, I can pull myself into the pretend world of Gotham or Wakanda and forget about it for an hour or so.A� Video games also became that for me, but it’s been harder and harder to sit down to play a video game now that I’m older.

I honestly like what comics are doing now.A� I don’t mind the new characters, enjoy most of the events that have happened in my time back in the books.A� What I don’t like is the cover price and it isn’t just because it’s prohibitive for me.A� I can find ways around that.A� It’s also prohibitive to new fans that they are courting with these new characters.A� Who is going to take a chance on something that is so obviously and grossly overpriced?A� I will be the first to admit that I don’t have answers, but I’m hoping that someone out there with the power to do something will figure it out.

Fail Hydra

(Editors Note: A�We’ve reached the end of Secret Empire and, with it, comes my review of the overall event. A�I’ve already done at least 2 (maybe 3) reviews of the beginning and middle (so, I guess 2) and promised that when all was said and A�done, I’d be back for the big send off. A�Away we go…)

The Good: A�This was a good story. A�I remember when the event started that I wasn’t completely on board with the idea. A�It seemed to go against everything that the Captain America character has ever stood for. A�How are you going to make Captain America into a facist? A� I understand that comics maybe aren’t selling as well in the face of movies and television shows that provide the same entertainment value at a possibly reduced cost for the consumer. A�But, come on, there are some things that you just don’t do. A�Turning Captain America into Hydra is something that you just don’t do. A�There are numerous instances of him fighting facists. A�One of the most recognizable images in comic book history is Cap punching Hitler straight in the face. A�I’ve shared that very image on this page probably to prove a similar point.

And, if punching Nazis is wrong, I don’t ever want to be right. Give ’em hell, Cap.

I won’t say that I ever came to terms with Captain Hydra. A�However, this story did a decent to good job of explaining a situation that, for many (myself included), had no good explanation. A�Granted, they jumped through hoops and the suspension of disbelief was almost too much at times. A�Still, it got me back into reading and enjoying comics and that is the name of the game. A�Well played, Marvel. A�Well played.

Aside from all of that, the story was compelling. A�It followed a good, logical arc with plenty of all the good kinds of conflict that make me want to invest my time in the story. A�In fact, I became so invested in the story that I did what I told myself I wasn’t going to do and I bought all of the crossover issues for the event, too. A�The last time I fell for that trick was the first Civil War and some of those books just felt like filler. A�That wasn’t the case with this event. A�Every book, even the crossover books, told a piece of the story. A�When you put them all together, you get a well executed event.

The art, for the most part, was very good, too. A�In a previous review, I mentioned that one of the reasons I enjoyed Civil War was Steve McNiven’s art. A�He didn’t do all of the books, but there was only one or two that I didn’t care for the art because another one of my favorite artists, Leinil Yu filled in for a couple of issues.

The Bad: A�I already mentioned that there were a couple of issues that I didn’t like the art. A�Granted, in the issues that I didn’t care for the art, there was a reason to use that particular style. A�I understand that, but I just didn’t care for it. A�It took me out of the story and, for me, had the exact opposite of the intended effect.

By my understanding, the art is supposed to convey an otherworldly or dream feel. It does make sense as this is an alternate reality, so every once in a while, it was interesting to have the art break down into the gauzy and ephemeral which was a stark contrast to the hyperrealism of Steve McNiven. A�However, for me, it was a reminder that this was only temporary. A�Steve Rogers was not going to remain a Hydra agent and Marvel insisted that things weren’t just “going to magically go back to normal at the end” during the whole event.

The art isn’t bad. It’s just different. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but it just didn’t fit well in my opinion.

I’ve recently heard rumors that initially, they meant for the Captain Hydra event to lead to another “Dark Reign” type storyline, at least temporarily. A�But, response to the change in Cap’s character was met with such resistance (probably the most out of any of the recent changes) that they had to figure out another way to wrap it all up. I don’t know about all of that, but I will say that another bad thing about this arc is that it got pretty dark in the middle. A�Granted, there were things happening in real life that probably exacerbated my feelings about Hydra ruling the country. A�But, I strongly considered not reading anymore.

The Ugly: A�Other than that middle “despair” arc of the story, the ending was not all that great. A�I think that we all agree that if they were going to end the story in this fashion that this was the only logical ending. A�Still, I’m a guy who likes a good ending and this one was just okay. A�It was what was supposed to happen and it happened.

So, why put this one in the ugly column? A�Well, it’s disappointing for one major reason. A�They said all along that this wasn’t going to be one of those stories where everything just gets fixed and we pretend that nothing happened after a few months. A�Before reading that, I was convinced that the cube would realize her mistake and work to fix what she broke. A�Then, I read that’s not how it would end and I was intrigued as to how they would end it. A�Chris suggested the old Dallas “it was just a dream” ridiculousness. A�While I didn’t have to make good on my threat and return all of the books that I bought if they actually went through with that, the ending was sort of along the lines of what I initially suspected. A�Okay, fine, but given everything that they said about it not being that ending, this deserves an ugly.

The Verdict: A�Similar to Civil War, this event will go down in history as bringing me back to comics. A�I didn’t enjoy this one as much as that one, but I did like the cohesiveness of this story with the crossover titles. A�So, this one might end up being more enduring and keep me in comics for at least the next year, if not more. A�Soon after Civil War ended, I found other things to spend my money on and quickly dropped comics.

Even though I complained to Chris about not having enough comics as the event wound down, I still found a way to spend almost 40 dollars this week. A�I’m back into comics in a big way. A�I have branched out from my almost 40 (well, with a few decades of breaks in between) year status as a Marvel zombie to read far more DC books that I’ve ever read. A�I have even picked up several independent books that aren’t Image while sticking with Spawn long enough to start to appreciate that book again. A�I have no idea what the future of comics holds but, I’m along for the ride no matter what.

Quick Update: Looking Back and Going Forward

(Editor’s Note: A�We are back from our many adventures on Cape Cod and ready to get back into the business of bringing fun and interesting content.)

There are two games around here that we really enjoy, but often get pushed to the back burner due to my interest in other games. A�Most notably, Magic the Gathering takes all of my money and time and we don’t get a chance to play much else. A�One of those games, Dicemasters, has been given much more coverage recently due to my purchase of a gravity feed of the World’s Finest set and our rainbow draft of the set. A�The other game is Heroclix, and it might be one of my favorite games. A�Shame, then, that I don’t get to play it often.

Unlike Dicemasters, where my history is murky and forgotten, I remember exactly when and how I was introduced to Heroclix. A�I’m positive that I’ve told the story before, so I will give the abridged version here. A�We were in one of our favorite local gaming stores to pick up something Pokemon card related for Liam. A�While in the store, Aiden noticed the Heroclix and asked about them. A�I had wanted to get into miniature games for a while, so we picked up an Avengers starter set and played a few rounds with very limited rules.

Am I the only one who imagines that the miniatures have squeaky little mouse voices when they talk?

To be fair, we are still playing with limited rules. A�However, we are much closer to playing the actual game than we were back then. A�There are still minor rules that we have changed or outright ignore. A�But, hey, we’re just playing around the kitchen table (sometimes literally), there’s no stakes to our games, and if we screw something up really badly, there’s always the option to take it back. A�So, what’s a little rules manipulation between friends and family?

At the same time that I purchased the World’s Finest Dicemasters gravity feed, I also bought a gravity feed of Wonder Woman Heroclix boosters. A�The idea was to play both games in June and report on them as part of a huge DC blowout in that month. A�But, it’s summer and the best laid plans and all that. A�The Heroclix lie, unopened, in the playroom. A�I know that it’s been promised before and there have been many false starts and I can’t say that this time won’t be different, but we have honestly gotten better about keeping a schedule and only really fell off the wagon for the month of July.

I wonder why podcasts and blogs haven’t been our top priority in July.

As mentioned in the editor’s note, we are back from our many adventures on Cape Cod and I’m ready to commit to the web page again. A�I already recorded the test pilot for my new one man show, “Snap, *censored*, Pop Culture” and I’ve put together a schedule for the month of August that we should be able to follow without issue and that will let us keep updating on a regular basis. A�Again, I promise nothing, but it has to happen eventually, right?

If nothing else, I’m ready to crack into that box and see what goodies we got. A�I don’t know if we will do a draft or any such thing or just throw the new characters into the box and build some teams, but I have been wanting to play some miniatures. A�So, we will definitely play Heroclix this weekend and I’ll be back with a report of some of my favorite minis from the Wonder Woman set. A�Hope you all enjoyed the time off as much as we did and we’ll see you in full force next week!

 

 

 

Marvel’s Secret

(Editor’s Note: A�This secret is nothing like Victoria’s. A�Although, it wouldn’t surprise me at this point if Marvel did a series where it was revealed that a major male character wore ladies underwear.)

I’m not a huge presence on social media. A�Imagine my surprise then, when my feeds blew up a few months ago with the news that Captain America was a Nazi. A�First, if that seems incongruous, you are not alone. A�Along with many others, I took to Twitter (something I almost never do), to express my dismay at this development.

I also texted Chris about the news. A�We had our usual “old man” conversation about the state of comics. A�The stories aren’t as good! A�It’s a dying medium! A�They’ve run out of ideas and are just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks! A�This is a dumb idea to sell more comics and it will probably backfire!

And, yes, you damn kids better stay off my lawn!

Our old man sensibilities might have been right on for some of that, but we were dead wrong on the point that it might backfire. A�After reading the main comics, I went to the store to pick up some of the tie in issues. A�Well, during that trip, I discovered that a few of them were sold out. A�So, yeah, Marvel’s money making scheme has worked on more than just me. A�Know that I’m not the only sucker still out there made me feel a bit better.

Obligatory spoiler warning: A�Look, I don’t give 2 craps about spoilers, so this article will probably contain a buttload (an actual measurement by the way) of then. A�Let this be your lone warning.

I’m pretty sure that issue #0 is a reprint of a previous comic. A�Even if it is not, as a guy jumping in after almost 2 decades away, I was glad for the recap. A�Plus, it is well written and the art is by Steve McNiven, so it is top notch. A�It absolutely added to my enjoyment of the book. A�Some artists distract from the story by going over the top and others are just bad, but not him. A�I’ve always liked his work and I’m glad they put him on another major even book. A�I’m a bit bummed that they don’t have him working with Millar to recreate the Civil War magic, but Nick Spencer is doing well so far as writer.

No snarky comment. Just admiration of his talent.

So, what is this great story that made even you jump on board with the Captain America, Hydra Supreme angle? A�First, let’s all admit that we know that this isn’t going to last. A�There will be some conclusion to bring Cap back to his Nazi hating self. A�Sure, the even might finish with him in custody after Hydra surrenders or is otherwise defeated. A�However, it’s only a matter of time before ol’ Steve Rogers returns. A�In fact, it may have already happened.

Until they, they’ve given an outlandish, though not entirely implausible explanation for the transformation. A�Bear in mind that when I say “implausible”, we are talking about a universe in which Hulk ripped Wolverine into two pieces and the top half had to crawl to the top of a mountain to retrieve the bottom half. A�So, with that in mind, Red Skull apparently altered or recreated reality so that Captain America was raised from a young age as a Hydra agent. A�He was destined t become the Hydra Supreme and did so through a takeover of SHIELD and eventually the entire country.

His plan included isolating a group of heroes in space against a neverending attack from Chitauri drones. A�Another phase trapped a portion of Manhattan in a dark dimension. A�By the end of issue #1, he had moved into DC to capture the White House. A�I will say this about Hydra. A�They probably keep the trains running on time.

Okay, I admit. That was in poor taste. I’m sorry.

Issue #1 explored the resistance a bit by introducing a character that gets “saved” by them. A�There is also some development of the Cap character in that he is shown as little more than a figurehead as leader of Hydra. A�I will keep this part in suspense because it involves a death, but Steve isn’t able to “pull the trigger” so to speak.

While the resistance story is expected and predictable, I’m intrigued by the Captain America angle. A�In the past, Steve Rogers has been nothing if not committed to his values. A�Even during Civil War, he was willing to play the villain and split the super hero community over his opposition of the Registration Act. A�To see him conflicted to such a degree is both surprising and encouraging that some of the old Cap might be shining through the darkness.

This thread is tugged a bit harder in Issue #2. A�We see that, in fact, Captain America ultimately did not make the fateful decisions in issue #1. A�That fact weighs heavily on him and he feels a bit out of his element. A�Black Widow does what she does and attempts to set off on her own, but she is quickly joined by others and they set up a new team to fight against Hydra and take down Cap.

Surely, you know me well enough to know that was all just an excuse to show Scarlett Johansson.

The issue ends with a moment that literally had me say, “Oh ****” out loud and cement my interest in the story. A�I went from openly antagonistic to mildly interested in the main title to needing to buy all of the tie ins and read them, too. A�They aren’t crucal to your understanding, but they do fill in nicely. A�Plus, there aren’t a ton of them and the event is fairly short, so I don’t mind keeping up with them.

Look, I admit that I’m an easy mark. A�I can usually find some redeeming quality about most creative projects. A�But, this one is genuinely good. A�I can’t nor won’t necessarily recommend the tie ins unless you have the extra money. A�However, if you’re looking for a new series, getting back in after an extended break like me, or any other reason you might have, I say absolutely get the main series. A�You won’t be disappointed.