Tag Archives: DC

DC in the 1990s

Introduction

In my previous article, I mentioned that Chris and I are going to talk about our affection for a forgotten decade in comics, the 1990s. Some of you out there might argue that they were forgotten for good reasons. Both Marvel and DC lost a lot of their most promising talent to independent books due to their archaic rules and sometimes draconian treatment of talent. Comics, like sports cards, were overproduced. This reduced potential future value and upset speculators. Personally, I don’t care much about that. If I can get my hands on a book, I don’t care about your future value.

I also mentioned in that article that we would not be able to travel to That’s Entertainment, but we would be able to record. Plans changed yet again. Chris’s schedule opened up so that we could go to the store, but mine was more restrictive, so we haven’t recorded yet. Fear not! We will be sure to get together over the weekend and scratch that comics discussion itch for you next week.

I promise you. It will feel this good.

DC on Television

Like Marvel, I was introduced to DC comic book heroes through television. Of course there was the live action Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter. Like The Incredible Hulk, if you were alive in that time period, you watched those shows. It wasn’t like today where almost everything is on demand and you can consume entertainment at your leisure. There was this thing called appointment viewing where everyone watched the show at the same time and then talked about it the next day around the water cooler. At least I imagine that there was a water cooler as I often hear that as a saying, too.

What might be surprising is that I originally discovered Batman through television, too. Well, you might think, that’s not so bad. I loved (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, *insert your favorite Batman series here*) too. DC might not be able to make a decent movie, but their TV series are pretty good. Ah, youth, so innocent and sometimes naive.

You never forget your first.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. As a child of the 70s, who came of age in the 90s, my first and defining Batman was Adam West. But, I have an excuse. My father loved the show. He wanted to share that love with his sons. I took that love very much to heart. When the Tim Burton Batman movies came out, my father warned me, “This isn’t anything like the TV show. Historically, Batman can be a bit dark.” I responded by not seeing the movie until it was on cable. Boy, did I show them! They responded by killing the series by making a decent sequel and then two terrible follow ups that seemed to try to split the difference. It did not work.

DC Comics in the 90s

Eventually, I loved the Tim Burton films and heaped the proper scorn on the other two movies in the franchise. My Batman was no longer the blue and grey suited “dad bod” of Adam West. Joker wasn’t a benign practical joker with hand buzzers and squirty flowers. It was a black suited solitary Dark Knight fighting against a sociopathic murderer in spotty clown makeup who still wears a squirty flower, but with acid.

Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

This shift in attitude and my status as a casual collector meant I only collected Batman and one other DC book. Luckily, it was during the Knightfall story and I collected them all. Unluckily, during one of my moves I didn’t want to move the comic book collection. I also erroneously assumed that I’d never collect comics again. Well, you win some and you lose some.

The second DC hero that I paid attention to at the time was Superman. DC decided to radically alter both of their most popular heroes. Killing Superman (spoiler alert) was such a big deal that they talked about it on the nightly news. That doesn’t seem like much in this era of the 24/7/365 news. Then it meant more. Stations only had three hours dedicated to news. Time was precious. Everyone wanted to see how they would kill the Superman.

I remember the story being good up to the actual death. DC followed it up with “Rise of the Supermen”. I collected those books, too, but the only one I enjoyed was Steel. If you didn’t get a chance to read the story, I recommend picking up the trade. Sure, they redid the story in Batman vs. Superman, but it was a shadow of itself in that movie.

The Verdict

I think that I was more into DC comics back then. The Death of Superman was enough to get me and Kevin to convince his dad to drive us to the local comic book store so that we could get the books on the day that they released. This is while we were both on vacation visiting him in Maryland. The Batman story was less interesting to me, but I did prefer that over almost everything that Marvel was doing at the time other than their 2099 books.

Sure, both stories that got me into collecting DC books in the 1990s were gimmicks meant to sell comics. Well, I never said that I was above falling for gimmicks. Next week, when I talk about my history with comics in the 2000s, you’ll see that both companies got me again with gimmicks. But, heck, the stories were good and I’m glad to have been able to experience them as they unfolded.

 

State of DC Comics

As mentioned in my¬†previous¬†article on the state of Marvel comics, Chris and I have recorded a pilot for a new podcast. I am close to finishing the edit on that, so it should be available soon. I had hoped to take the occasion of the new show and my new interest in comics to write down a few words about the state of the two larger comics publishers. If you’ve read that article already, you know the deal. If not, here’s the short, short version. This isn’t an in depth analysis of the financial and social impact of DC Comics. It is simply the thoughts of one fan and the likelihood of that fan remaining for the foreseeable future. If that sounds like something you’d like to read, let’s get started!

The State of DC Comics (as I see it)

First, a little history. This is partly inspired by comments made in my Marvel comics article. It is also a result of my attempts to organize my comics. During those efforts, I ran across my issues of the 52 and Countdown weekly series. That led to a Google search for DC “continuity” surrounding those series and, more importantly, the series following. Apparently I stopped collecting comics after Week 41 of the Countdown series. In a conversation with Chris, I think that is because the local comic book store in town closed.

I was for years under the impression that these guys were just falling. Maybe their impact is what caused the final crisis and New 52? I may never know.

Chris got back into Batman during New 52. He also enjoyed Swamp Thing. I knew nothing about the actual plots of any of the books during this time. In the Marvel article, I touched on New 52 and Rebirth because Marvel seems to be in the same rudderless ship that DC was back then. I ignorantly made the assumption that DC used New 52 as a way to clean up their timeline and further ignorantly assumed that maybe Marvel was doing the same by rebooting so soon after their Legacy announcement.

In my searches, I found that New 52 was actually, other than maybe a few issues, an absolutely disaster. I don’t know if any of this is true, but I learned that Batman was actually his dad because it was Bruce who was killed and Wonder Woman declared war on Aquaman (maybe?) that destroyed all of Western Europe. It all reached a head when (as it often does when DC wants to reset continuity), Flash royally screwed up the timeline by going back in time to save his mother.

Seriously, there are a few things we can rely on in comics. Flash will mess up the timeline and any time Marvel wants to be taken seriously, they “end” the Fantastic Four.

That has led to Rebirth, which almost everyone agrees is the most successful relaunch of a comics line, maybe ever. It has been successful in one way that is personal to me. It’s kept me collecting comics. I might have gotten back into comics because of Secret Empire, but DC is the reason I’m still here. I’m enjoying nearly every story that I read from them. They have some of my favorite writers and artist working for them. Things right now are just really good.

My Future with DC Comics

I think I’ve made the point that I think that Rebirth has be overwhelmingly successful. It’s given me reason to keep buying comics and unlike previous times that I’ve gotten back into collecting, I have reasons to stay. First, DC Comics are really good right now. Secondly, the Rebirth reboot has given me a focus to the collecting. I might never be able to collect all 1000 Action comics, but there’s nothing preventing me from collecting the ones from the start of Rebirth. Finally, my kids are showing an interest in comics. Similar to my other hobbies, they are much more enjoyable when I can share with them.

In case you haven’t read my previous article, I’m much more optimistic about the future of DC Comics than Marvel right now. Chris and I have talked and I realize that the market is cyclical. Any time you have competitors, they generally take turns at the top. Right now is DC’s turn to be at the top. Thing is, I don’t see Marvel making the moves necessary to even compete, let alone make a run for that number 1 spot.

Speaking of #1, I just realized that they’re killing the Incredible Hulk line to make room for this one. Hulk has been so mistreated recently.

The one thing that worries me is that DC has given into market pressure and they’re raising some cover prices. While that might have been inevitable and that’s just what they believe the market can bear, it’s not an encouraging sign. I know I’m an old man who refuses to come into the present when it comes to game and book prices, but this is one thing that I truly can’t understand. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. In addition to just getting with the times, I need to realize that this isn’t just a “32 page” book as I’ve said in the past. This is, often, a great story with accompanying art that should be appreciated. Besides, thanks to Chris, I now realize that only chumps pay full cover price.

2 Generations Gaming 2017 in Review

Introduction

It’s the first day of 2018. This is the time every year that is traditionally set aside for reflection on the previous 365 (or 366) days. There are countdowns, marathons, and years in review. This article falls into the last category. 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. I’ve also kept busy with plenty of other geeky fun. Let’s reminisce on the best, the worst, and the ugliest.

The Good

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

Eternal/Hearthstone: Yes, these are both games that could have technically been included in the mobile section. However, they’ve had more impact on me than the other games included in that list. I started playing Eternal during one of my rage quits from Hearthstone earlier in the year. I had seen Brian Kibler playing the game on stream and figured I’d give it a chance. I’m glad that I did. While I don’t play it as much as when I first started, it still has a place in my weekly rotation. I have had an up and down relationship with Hearthstone. However, as I said to Chris a couple of days ago, I seem to have found my comfort zone in the game. I have little to no interest in competitive play of any sort. 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: 2017 was the year that saw me get back into comics. Marvel’s Secret Empire event led to a discovery of the well executed DC Rebirth titles. 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. Almost all of these events were well executed, but it wasn’t all good for comics this year. More on that later.

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

The Best: 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. When it is one of the best of the franchise, it will be the best thing of the decade. When I get to experience it with my kids and father in law, it just might be one of the highlights of my life. 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: This is the first year in a few that we haven’t gotten a new console. I was going back and forth for a few weeks on whether or not to buy an XBox One Minecraft edition. I’ve had my eye on it for a while. 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. 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. We won’t be down for long, though. We are looking at a Switch and I’m almost positive that I’ll get an XBox in February.

The Worst: Only two for this one? Yep, and only two for the next one, too. By now, you should know my very positive outlook on things and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. 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. But, I have a valid explanation. I loved the stories and art of the comics, but hated the cover prices. I was spending far too much money on them and I couldn’t justify doing so anymore. At least with games, I get massive replay value from them and they allow me to spend more time with my kids. Comics did neither of those. It was 3-7 dollars spent on 10-15 minutes of enjoyment. That’s just awful.

The Ugly

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

Nerd on Nerd Violence: This is something that I’ve often spoken against. However, as nerd culture has become popular culture, the nerd on nerd violence has increased to an unacceptable level. It used to be that when you were picked on by somebody, you always had your nerd buddies to get your back. 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. Now, some of the worst abuse of nerds is coming from other nerds. It isn’t just good-natured joke fights about whether Star Trek or Star Wars is better. It’s full on attacks of each other and the things we hold dear. 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. It wasn’t all poorly executed puns, either. It was a good bordering on great year that gives us an excellent foundation to make 2018 even better. Happy New Year, All! 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. Over the last few days, I’ve had two conversations with two different people (Chris and my cousin) about Marvel comics mostly. Neither conversation was completely out of context, but they were both initiated by me. I’m not usually one to fall into the trap of nostalgia, but there are a few things from my childhood that trigger it. As I have recently learned, comics are definitely in that category.

The Good

I mentioned that both conversations revolved around Marvel. I also wrote that I’m concerned about where comics are going. So, you can probably deduce that there might not be much in this section about Marvel. 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. Nick Spencer took what could have been a disaster and made it work. 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? Patience. I will get to the bad and ugly (in spite of my promise of possibly doing away with this format) in the net sections. For now, that is the good of Marvel. In contrast, DC not only has good stories (better than Marvel some would say), but their cover prices are so much less. I know that sounds odd when the difference is only one dollar, but a dollar per books adds up. At the standard prices of 2.99 v. 3.99, you get an extra DC book per $12 spent. 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. That point, in fact, came up in my conversation with Chris. He said how he wasn’t buying Marvel anymore unless they were on clearance. He then went on to mention that he thought the DC books were of better quality. 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. At the least, it is an exaggeration. Sure, Batman is the best book currently and might be one of the best ever. Scott Snyder has blown it out of the stratosphere with Metal. After those and maybe Tom King’s other book, Mr. Miracle, there is a definite drop off in quality. 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. I’ve already said that most, if not all, of the DC books have good characters and stories. Their Rebirth has been a reboot that has worked on so many levels. However, it hasn’t all been completely positive. Other than the books mentioned in the last section, there isn’t much that is worth the cover price. Wonder Woman without Greg Rucka has been quite the drop off. 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. I liked Secret Empire and was willing to give Legacy a chance. I liked that, too, and especially liked that it wasn’t a reboot. However, all of this was secretly while hoping that they might come to their senses and drop their cover prices. They never did, so I’m officially out again from comic collecting. I just cannot justify the price for what I’m getting.

The Ugly

So, perhaps I’m part of the problem. The other major revelation came during the conversation with my cousin. 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. While talking to Chris, I made the point that comic fans have disproportionate power right now. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Like I said to my cousin, because he’s not a comics fan, just a fan of the movies, “Who cares, right?” Well, I care. Comic books were an outlet for an awkward teenage me and they have been a steady force in my life ever since. 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. 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. I don’t mind the new characters, enjoy most of the events that have happened in my time back in the books. What I don’t like is the cover price and it isn’t just because it’s prohibitive for me. I can find ways around that. It’s also prohibitive to new fans that they are courting with these new characters. Who is going to take a chance on something that is so obviously and grossly overpriced? 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.

Comics Round Up: World’s Finest

Introduction

At this point, I don’t think that I even have to mention that I’ve been back into comics since the Secret Empire event sucked me back in. However, even I am surprised that I’m still reading them now that the event is over. I didn’t last much past Civil War during my previous comics phase. We will obviously see if this current run continues, but I haven’t missed a week in nearly three months and getting a steady paycheck through December means that I probably won’t for the foreseeable future.

Justice League

The Good: I wasn’t terribly impressed with the first issue of this story arc. It wasn’t terrible. I just thought that they could do so much more with the premise. ranted, it was an introductory issue. I kept that in mind and I held out hope that it might get better. This is usually where I say, “I’m glad I did” or “I shouldn’t have bothered”. While I’m not sorry that I continued reading, I won’t quite say that I’m glad I did, either. Wow, what a weird good section, right? Don’t get me wrong. The story is decent. It’s just a bit too generic “coming back to the present to save the future” for me.

The Bad: Well, if that’s “the good”, then there must be plenty of bad. No, not necessarily. Overall, the story isn’t good more bad. It just sort of is. With both Marvel and DC playing with the idea of a multiverse, alternate history, and reinvention, this is one story that really didn’t need to be told right now. At least, it should have spent a little more time in development.

The Ugly: Loo, I get that I’m a frustrated writer. I also understand that critics are often failures in whatever they criticize. That is why I’m very careful and overly positive in my reviews. I’m not going to tear into this book. But, as you’ve seen, I haven’t been able to give it the full stamp of approval, either. For someone like me, that feels ugly and like it betrays my positive outlook on creative projects.

Justice League America

The Good: Similar title, similar heroes, vastly different results. This has been a much better book overall than the other Justice League title right now. That is in spite of not focusing too much on the main heroes. Maybe it is because they haven’t centered the story around them. I mean, the book has Lobo in it. The story revolves mainly around a character with size manipulation powers that travels to the “microverse” to find his mentor. It controls the narrative by itself and lets the JLA do theri things in the background. It plays much better than the Justice League title right now.

The Bad: This one, too, started off a bit slow. Like the other Justice League book, I almost didn’t give it more than one issue. Seeing as how this is a recurring theme, I suppose that I just have to realize that DC arcs–other than their big ones–use the first issue to set the stage. I will accept it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The Ugly: Speaking of Lobo, I’m glad that he has only a small supporting role. Similar to Deadpool, I can only tolerate Lobo in small doses. Anything more and the schtick just gets tired. Kudos to DC for recognizing my aversion to the character and writing specifically for me. Otherwise, it could have gotten ugly.

Wonder Woman/Conan

The Good: As far as I know, this is an original story, which is hard to find in a medium that has been around for 70? 80? years. Furthermore, it is an entertaining blending of the two mythologies. Of course, I’m not a comic book scholar, so this might have been done before. Alsok if I’m being honest, the story is simply an alternate telling of the Wonder Woman origin in the context of the Conan world. Still, the first issue was good.

The Bad: As I jus wrote, they may have done this crossover before. Now that I think about it, I’m sure they must have done this a least one other time during the “wild and crazy” 90s. I’m too lazy to Google right now. If so, then there’s no shock here. If not, or if there are new fans due to the movie, then the retelling of the Wonder Woman origin might turn some away.

The Ugly: Look, I know the rather sordid background of Wonder Woman. More specifically, a few months ago, I read an article about some of the stuff that her creator wrote into the book because of his “preferences”. The end of this book, while not fully embracing the roost of the character, came uncomfortable close to those dated and ugly themes.

Wonder Woman

The Good: While the stand alone title has not been as good as it was in the beginning when Greg Rucka was writing it, the lastest storyline has grown on me over the last few issues. As mentioned earlier, an all too familar refrain with DC arcs is that the first issue is very weak. Since that introduction, the story has improved enough to keep me buying a book that I thought might end up only being “I bought this for Greg Rucka.”

The Bad: I hate to harp on a point over and over, but DC really has to work on their intro issues for new stories. As a frustrated writer, I understand that stories have a certain structure; introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. I also understand that ever since Brian Michael Bendis changed the format, comics are all about setting things up for the eventual trades. As a result, that first issues ends up being a throw away for the minor stories.

The Ugly; I guess that, ultimately, my quarrel is with the structure of comics in the current era. Since every story has to be a 5 or 6 story arc and there isn’t much room for the random one off issue. Although, I will say that Batman did a successful one of team up with Swamp Thing that I thought was going to span multiple issues. That’s how ingrained the thinking is. I just wish that there were more of those and less focus on dragging their feet to fill the issue quota. Oh well, something ugly that I’ll just have to live with for now.

Next: That’s all we have time for in this review. I’ll be back in a few days with my thoughts on how Aquaman is succeeding (or not) in taking back his throne, how Batman is dealing with a war between two of his worst enemies, and how another Batman is coming face to face with nightmares from other universes!

Quick Update: Looking Back and Going Forward

(Editor’s Note: 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. Most notably, Magic the Gathering takes all of my money and time and we don’t get a chance to play much else. 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. The other game is Heroclix, and it might be one of my favorite games. 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. I’m positive that I’ve told the story before, so I will give the abridged version here. We were in one of our favorite local gaming stores to pick up something Pokemon card related for Liam. While in the store, Aiden noticed the Heroclix and asked about them. 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. However, we are much closer to playing the actual game than we were back then. There are still minor rules that we have changed or outright ignore. 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. 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. The idea was to play both games in June and report on them as part of a huge DC blowout in that month. But, it’s summer and the best laid plans and all that. The Heroclix lie, unopened, in the playroom. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Hope you all enjoyed the time off as much as we did and we’ll see you in full force next week!

Comics Wrap Up: DC

(Editor’s Note: I know that I have the good, bad, and ugly format for review articles. However, these comics articles are often going to cover several titles and that format might cause the articles to become so long as to be cumbersome to read. I’ll work the good, the bad, and the ugly into the articles somehow, but they won’t be the focal point.)

The title of this article is a bit misleading. Unlike Marvel, which has hooked me into buying multiple new books with their Secret Empire event, I’ve only read Batman and Wonder Woman from the DC Rebirth universe. That may change with the “Metal” event or as I become more adventurous and branch out into other titles. For now, though, enjoy my first edition of comic Wrap Up for Wonder Woman and Batman. Only two titles lets me test out some things and figure out what works and doesn’t.

Wonder Woman

Part of the reason that I haven’t gotten into more DC books is that I have been having trouble figuring out starting points for the books that are unfamiliar. Due to having grown up an unabashed Marvel zombie, most of the DC books are unfamiliar. I’ve always liked Batman, used that to get into Batman/Superman title of the early or mid 2000s, branched out from that into Superman for a very brief time, and not much else.

From the looks of things, Aquaman 25 appears to be a good starting point, so that might be the next DC title that I start collecting.

The new Wonder Woman movie led me to check out the comic book. Luckily, the 2nd volume of the trade came out during one of my visits to the store, so I picked it up. I found it strange that Volume 2 was titled “Year One” because I then had no idea what the story of the first book might be. Having never read any Wonder Woman before, though, I was thankful for the origin story.

After getting the first volume second, which actually made sense in the context of the two books, I did some research. I discovered that the writer was intertwining two stories concurrently during a particular story arc. As an example, the first 12 issues alternate between the year one origin story and another story where Diana is trying to find her way back to Themyscira. The odd issues tell one story and switched to the other for the even issues.

Because I bought the trades, I haven’t been able to experience how they worked together and if it enhanced the narrative at all. However, I’m a huge fan of alternative story telling methods. I recently watched Shimmer Lake and it was told in reverse. Hopefully, he keeps it up and I will be able to see if and how it affects the flow of the stories.

“The Lies” are leading the “The Truth”, which looks similar to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer storyline, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

As far as the stories, they are of high quality. Having never read Wonder Woman, I only had the movie to give me any expectations. But the origin story moved quickly, set the scene and established characters. The other did the exact opposite and is serving to undermine the entire mythology. While they are antithetical and you might wonder why he’d immediately work so hard to destroy his creating, the stories oddly fit together. I see now how weaving them together heightens the drama and keeps the reader on edge. It is actually a brilliant strategy.

The Good: The stories are fantastic. They are well paced and complement one another and bring together what is an unorthodox story telling style that could have gone very badly.

The Bad: At least the first 2 arcs that I’ve read will be familiar to Wonder Woman fans. They might have switched some things up to modernize it a bit, but it is an origin story.

The Ugly: Infinite Crisis, The New 52, now Rebirth? Jesus, how many reboots do we need? At least they seem committed to this one for the long haul. Here’s hoping.

Batman

Unlike Wonder Woman, Batman has been a part of my life since I watched the old TV series with my father. I saw several Robins killed. Witnessed the Batman broken by Bane. Lived through watching the Tim Burton franchise lose all credibility when it grew “bat nipples”. Threw out an unenthusiastic “Meh” followed by a slightly less enthusiastic “this is fine” over the announcement and current reign of “Batfleck”. So, there’s little that they can do with the character that would surprise me.

So, even though I joined Batman around issue 23, I don’t have an incentive to fill in the first two dozen or so issues via trades. I will continue forward. If I have some left over some week in my comic budget (not likely), I will grab the trades and see if there’s anything new in the Bat’s history since Rebirth.

Remember when I said that not much could surprise me. Well, more on that in a bit.

As far as the story that I’ve read, I was wrong about there being no surprises. The first issue that I read involved a team up with Swamp Thing. While only a one off, it was so well written that it hooked me. Then, Batman (spoiler alert) proposed to Catwoman. Yeah, it’s a gimmick. But, holy crap, what a gimmick! Plus, the book is so well written with good pacing and dialogue that it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Currently, they’re setting the stage for a huge arc with Joker and The Riddler. Chris has said a couple of times that this is his favorite book right now. I don’t know if I can say that unequivocally, but there aren’t many, if any books right now that I would put above it on my most anticipated every month.

The Good: Again, just good writing. Great story, characters are familiar.

The Bad: The pacing of the story is a bit odd. It’s a good story, but sometimes there’s a little bit too much talk and not enough action.

The Ugly: Oh man, that Catwoman thing has worked so far, but it could have been a book killer if they didn’t do it right.

Batman is great. Wonder Woman is great. For some reason, none of that has led me to explore other books. I grew up as a Marvel zombie, a Marvel zombie I remain, and some day I will die and rise from the grave as a true Marvel zombie. Secret Empire and the tie in issues have swallowed much of my comic budget. However, I’ve mentioned to Chris that the Trinity series looks intriguing and I might have to read some Justice League before the movie comes out in November.

Dice, Dice Baby

(Editor’s Note: Depending on the demographics of our audience, that might be a severely bad reference. Either way, it’s a bit of a stretch, I admit.)

I went to Wal*Mart a couple of days ago. By itself, that isn’t newsworthy. I go to Wal*Mart several times a week. Sometimes I go there twice or three times in the same day. In fact, I think that I’ve been to “Big Blue” at least once a day for the past week. The trips aren’t usually worth mentioning. During this trip, I checked their game aisle. Again, not really out of the ordinary. I check the aisle almost every time I’m there, even though it rarely changes in any significant way. However, I went there for Aiden and Quinn, who had $10 each of birthday money burning a hole in their pockets. Aiden wanted Pokemon cards and Quinn wanted a Pokeball with a miniature Pokemon. I found both things, but initially nothing for me. I had just bought 15 packs of Magic a couple of days earlier, so you can argue that I didn’t need anything. Then again, does anyone ever “need” more collectibles?

The previous paragraph brought to you by Wal*Mart.  I wish.  I hate the place, but I'm not above taking their money.  *hint, hint*
The previous paragraph brought to you by Wal*Mart. I wish. I hate the place, but I’m not above taking their money. *hint, hint*

So, why am I wasting your time with this story about my trip to Wal*Mart? You must be new here. In that case, welcome! (If not, skip to the next paragraph.) I hope you enjoy the page and podcast. I do things a bit less conventionally than other gaming sites. I wander off on tangents. I abuse parenthetical phrases. Luckily, I often warn you when I lose focus and I (almost) always wind up back on topic eventually.

Oh, what’s this? I notice that Wal*Mart now carries Dice Masters. I’ve heard of the game through my research into Heroclix. Also, for some reason, I am in a Dice Masters community on Google+. Yeah, I know, but I don’t have a phone and it lets me text using my tablet. I never considered the game–not seriously, at least–until Free Comic Book Day.

The actual day turned out to be less about free comics and more about riding bikes, but that’s okay. The best days are often those that do go according to plan. We eventually made it to the store for the books, but it was too late and there wasn’t much of a selection. As he often does, since he is under the impression that money is limitless, Aiden asked me to buy him everything from new Pokemon cards to a keychain for keys that he doesn’t own. While dodging his persistent demands, I saw that the store offered Dice Masters.

“That’s a fun game”. The store owner offered. Unsure whether he meant it or was just trying to make a sale, I forced a nod, pretended to admire the packaging a little longer, and escaped with my uninspiring free comics and unmolested wallet. That’s how I learned about Dice Masters.

You never know when or how an addiction will start.
You never know when or how an addiction will start.

The story does not end there, loyal readers! Oh, no! As I have said, our main mission at 2 Guys Gaming is to make games fun. Part of that fun is discovering new games. Another part of that fun, for me, is playing those new games with my sons. You can, of course, see where this incredibly obvious plot twist is taking us. Please, though, no spoilers. Allow this frustrated story teller a moment of intrigue and surprise.

The shop owner’s comment stayed with me. I mentioned it to Chris, who showed some interest in playing. I put the game on our tentative schedule for discussion on the podcast later in the year. I let the comment “That’s a fun game” marinate in my brain stew until it reached the proper level of roasted succulence. Well, now, that was a weird metaphor. I must be hungry.

No matter how I ended up in the gaming aisle at the local Wal*Mart looking at the Dice Masters and thinking back on my brief history with the game, there I was. It didn’t take long to make the decision to get the Avengers v. X-Men Starter Pack. They also had the DC Justice League Starter, but I am an unabashed Marvel zombie.

Avengers vs. X-Men Starter Pack contents.
Avengers vs. X-Men Starter Pack contents.

I brought the boys home their spoils. Aiden immediately broke open his packs and they have gotten him back into the Pokemon mood. We played two games this afternoon and he kicked my butt severely. I got away from my comfort zone of darkness and psychic type and tried to build a fighting and water deck. Unfortunately, Quinn got a hold of my deck and the Blastoise EX never made it back. The replacement EX got buried in my prize cards and he handled my Pokemon pretty well with one of his. After I KO’d his first Pokemon, he used a great strategy to get a strong one off of his bench to destroy me.

Quinn, since he is 4, absolutely loved his Pokeball and Pokemon. I found the other figures that they previously owned and he played with them for a day or two. It now sits forgotten somewhere in the house. Sad and lonely, it waits to be played again. Hopefully, Quinn finds it before something drastic happens. I will spare you the dark depths of my mind and tales of toy suicide. Just pray with me for the poor Dusk Ball. It has a family (possibly) and friends (presumably) that love and care about it.

It *is* a Dusk Ball, so it is pretty emo to begin with.
It *is* a Dusk Ball, so it is pretty emo to begin with.

Well, despite my better intentions, that got dark. Let’s get back to having fun. After giving them their stuff, I sat at the dining room table to learn the game. Christine made fun of me for playing with myself. That one is for you, perverts. I wanted to make sure that I understood the game before trying to teach the boys.

The starter set rule book illustrated a very helpful tutorial game. I played through that solo and got a much better grasp of the game than I have even for Heroclix after playing a full game. That might have more to do with Heroclix being a more complex game, but it was nice to have the tutorial as an introduction. They also wrote a more complication explanation of a turn, but I didn’t read that. I don’t have infinite time. The tutorial is more than enough to learn the basics of the game and it is not nearly as complex as Magic or Heroclix. There is still strategy and decision making, but it is an easy game to pick up and play right away. I taught both of the boys how to play in less than a half an hour total.

They both took to the game like a fish in water. Is that even a saying? Probably not, but they did love the game. We had plans for Memorial Day weekend with the in-laws and they asked to bring the game to the cookout. We played many more games over the next few days. It has gotten busy with school, Tae Kwon Do, field trips, and soccer, so we haven’t played much recently.

...and the Justice League contents.  Batman is off fighting crime somewhere in Gotham.
…and the Justice League contents. Batman is off fighting crime somewhere in Gotham.

Even so, I ended up buying the Justice League starter set, too. While the one starter offers a wide variety of teams and games possible, I also wanted to play as Batman and maybe Superman. Little did I know that Aiden would discover Deathstroke as one of the most OP characters we’ve played. I want to keep expanding into other sets and buy more dice for the sets that we have. While each game has been different due to the variety, you can never have too many cards or dice. My wife, of course, would disagree, but I don’t take her advice in these matters.

The game is fun to play. It is easy to pick up and learn strategy as you play. My kids, especially Aiden, love it. Even with a limited collection (one starter set for around 15 dollars) the games are virtually limitless in their possibilities. Booster packs are cheaper than Magic or Heroclix. The game isn’t as collectible as those other games, but that’s a minor consideration. I would definitely recommend this game to any gamer who is looking to expand into something new, fun, and quick.

Free Comic Book Day 2015

(Note: The first ones are free, Kid. After that, you gotta pay.)

479387_4715041515020_1398802719_o

 

I’ve been under the impression that our family made Free Comic Book Day a tradition and that we’ve gone every year for the last couple of years. Now that I look at this picture of our first (and only recorded) visit, I realize that memory is, once again, the worst witness. That was at least two–and maybe even three–years ago. A visit to Facebook to check the time stamp confirms that we took a year off from the annual celebration of five finger discounts on the funny pages and I’m not sure why. It might have been birthday parties or something. It definitely was not the quality of comics. Those were actually very good and quite impressive for free.

We missed last year, as mentioned, but I put it on the calendar this year. I also reminded everyone for days leading up to the big event. Some of he story of how the actual day went are told in my previous post. If you can’t–or don’t want to–read the story right now, I’ll give the TL:DR version. We got stuck in parade traffic, got to the comic book store late, got our comics, and didn’t stay for anything else. I almost got suckered into buying a set of Dice Masters. Bound to happen eventually.

So, what about the books? I don’t know if it was just because we were late, but the selection seemed quite underwhelming this year. Maybe it is because I haven’t been collecting for at least a decade. I didn’t recognize many of the comics. The ones that I did know didn’t look that appealing. I mean, really, they’re doing Secret Wars again? Come on, have some originality. In the end, I got TMNT (to see if the hype is real), Divergence, and Secret Wars because I’m a fraud. The boys got Pokemon, Transformers, Sonic/Megaman, and Teen Titans/Scooby Doo. Truth be told, their comics look more interesting, so I’ll leave those for last.

divergenceFirst up is Divergence. This is some DC book that contains three separate stories about their most popular characters. I’m a little frustrated that they’re rebooting again, but it is also maybe a good idea. How much are comics now? $3 isn’t bad. I’m intrigued. Wait, they killed Batman? And Joker? What the hell is this? I agree with Gordon. This is dumb. A reboot is good because it gives a good place to get back in, but will I? The next story is about Superman. The first thing that I notice is that JRJR is now with DC. That seems odd. Lois gave up his secret identity? Maybe I do want to check this out. The Wonder Woman story is also good and I actually write Chris that I’m considering a return to the comic book store. If only the Marvel books are as good.

secret warsYeah, about that. They are not. Secret Wars is terrible. Ultimate End is awful. Inhumans is ridiculously inane. These are all previews and none of them make me want to buy the actual book. In what universe do we live that I’m more interested in DC books than Marvel? Clearly Marvel has given up on comics and prefers to exist in movies and television.

tmntThat brings us to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both Chris and I had strong things to say about Donatello being killed off in a recent story line, but this is actually a pretty good book right now. The only name that I recognize is Eastman, but that might actually be a good thing. I still think that it could have been done without killing Donatello. Still, I might pick up some of the trades to catch up on the story.

POK_201502FCBD2015SolicitationCover.inddNow, onto the books that the boys picked up. Liam read Pokemon as soon as we got back in the car. He called it weird and said that it didn’t follow the main story. It is one of the comics that reads backwards, but I don’t think that’s what he meant by weird. Many of the Pokemon comics are like that. I suspect that he meant the same thing with both statements. I haven’t read it yet, but I trust his judgement.

transformersThe Transformers comic is a full story one similar to the DC books that I read and they illustrate just how old I am. I only recognize Bumblebee, but I suppose that many of the characters are from the Transformers Prime. I’ve always meant to watch the show. Maybe this will be the introduction and reason that I need to start. There is also an interesting little introduction to Transformers vs. GI Joe. The book isn’t bad, but it’s definitely a kid book.

sonicBoth the Sonic/Megaman and Scooby-Doo/Teen Titans books follow the same format as the Transformers. They are full story introductions into the new stories that are coming during the summer. One thing that I notice is that there are multiple Sonic titles. They also blatantly plug a new video game, which is to be expected, I suppose. Megaman is much darker and more intense. Seems like it might be better for older kids and I’m somewhat interested to see how the comics and worlds will cross over. Finally, Scooby-Doo is much more like the older TV show that I remember than some of the more recent TV shows have been. That’s a good thing. I couldn’t even do Teen Titans. There was far too much happening in that book, color and insanity wise for my old brain.

scoobyIn closing, other than TMNT the adult books were disappointing. DC was better than Marvel, but that’s not saying much because Marvel were awful. The kid books were all full story, mostly decent, fun, and more interesting than the adult ones. I doubt that I’d enjoy any of them as a month to month. There is some glimmer of hope. They are doing what Chris and I thought they should do and trying to hook young fans into comic books. I don’t know how successful, but both boys have asked to read some of my old books. I also asked them if they wanted to start collecting comics and they both said yes. Once again, they failed to hook me enough to get me to start collecting, but I might invest in trades of TMNT, at least, so that’s something. Also, definitely going to sign up for Marvel Unlimited because they have another free month trial. I’m not fully back and I might never be. However, I’m at least partly still in, so there’s hope for us old guys, too.