Thursday, July 12, 2018

On the comics collapse

There's a lot of talk of the markets shrinking in sff and comics from the tradpub sources, and here's a bit of my theory on the comics side.

I think Marvel and DC, with some help from Diamond(active to a point, but I have trouble believing they're that dumb) might be actively colluding to close the comic book stores. Diversity and Comics has made a good amount of noise over the fact that over 60 shops have closed this year alone.

Marvel is being overshipped, and the stores have to pay for the books. DC had a few exciting and high selling things early in the year, but their more recent moves are really bad from a sales standpoint, and the stores would be more inclined to take those chances after the big early sales.

Diamond, for the third real player, has for years made it very difficult and expensive to reach retailers and the public eye via their catalog. Alterna Comics has had trouble with them not shipping reorders and reprints, and the publisher has taken to shipping them directly himself. Most small press stuff can only be bought at cons or maybe from a local store, though one, Hollow Harbor, has connections with Miniature Market and sells through them.

Now, the why. They dominate the marketspace. They make a better percentage off of digital sales, though Diamond should be panicking over store closings. And through the digital space, they can better keep people from noticing smaller material, entering their entire back catalog over time. Why? Image almost took an equal share at one point, especially with Jim Lee's Wildstorm part of the business. He sold out for security over taking chances to become a giant in his own right as a publisher. Well, that and Batman.

Now POD printing approaches usefulness for comics printing at competitive prices, and if alternate models start hitting the mainstream comics market in news and books, then they don't control the industry anymore. Dave Sim became a legend for self publishing Cerberus; these days, he would have gotten rich at it as well. So yes, they're terrified of Arkhaven and Dark Legion. D+C's Jawbreakers and Ethan Van Sciver's Cyberfrog have them shaking. And they don't have a clue what to really think about the project Chuck Dixon has gotten going. Red Rooster? Should eat up a good chunk of Astro City/Black Hammer readers.

Mark Waid talked to Antarctic Press to get them to drop Jawbreakers. He's now under investigation for tortious interference. But I wonder how deep the DOJ is going to look. As a leading Marvel writer(history and reputation, not current talent), he might unwittingly have led the Mouse to a trap.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Comic Review: Earth AM from Hollow Harbor

Cower not, fierce reader! I'm still around, and right now, I've got a comic for those of you into indie sf books. It's from small publisher Hollow Harbor.

Earth AM takes place over 200 years into the future, and humanity has split into four factions. There are skyrytes, cyborgs, underaneans, and humans. AM stands for "After Mutation". The first issue has no clear resemblance to contemporary comics.

The writing is solid, with very solid art backing it up. There's a bit of background in there, though it's not a world origin. That, we're dropped into. We do get more backstory following one of the leaders, though.

The humans are desperately trying to hold off all three of the other factions, the Skyrytes need food for their aerial cities, the Underaneans are destructively greedy, and the Cyborgs seem to be plotters at the level of the Byzantine Empire.

Anyway, here's a sample page from their site that's inked but uncolored:

This is a small publisher, and doesn't appear to be in regular distribution. You can get digital versions of the book via kindle, and if you want a physical copy, Miniature Market is carrying them. (Both are based in St. Louis). They have another book, Tyrants, that I'm looking to check out soon.

Right now, I'd give this book a solid 8/10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, April 2, 2018

PSA on drug reactions

Yes, I know I haven't written in awhile. I'm having some trouble adjusting to the new area, or at least, more than I thought I would.

But now I'm going to take some time discussing drug reactions. If you know you're allergic, don't take it. Make sure the doctor and pharmacist know.  Allergic reactions to drugs go wildly bad.

For instance, reactions to Bactrim go from some mild rashes to swelling of the face to sloughing of all of the skin(most extreme, and this does include the lungs). There are some NSFW pictures online if you want to see how bad certain regions of the body can react.

I've also had a friend that had a severe reaction to Hepatitis C series immunizations. While these reactions are rare, they are very dangerous, and usually involve intensive care for awhile, as well as befuddled doctors. 

Drug reactions can be as varied and dangerous as food allergies, so if you are taking a new drug, try to have someone watching. I had my reaction severity limited, because someone else recognized reaction symptoms that I missed. I was saved a LOT of pain and suffering because of that.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Injustice Book Review: The Ophian Rising by Brian Niemeier

Cower not, fierce reader! This day, I finally take a look at Brian Niemeier's latest novel, the last of the Soul Cycle. Yes, I'm running way behind my normal schedule and pace. I've been buried between work, injury recovery, and learning a new town(and some of these are going to be ongoing). But enough about my productivity issues. Let's look at this tome.

First, it is way too complex for tradpub to have considered it. Yes, even with three prior books, we still have new things to encounter, and I'm grateful that we have more discovery to make. For proper comparison, tradpub sff ALL passed on Dune, which had been serialized in magazine form as a few pieces. CHILTON published Dune as a whole work.

I can hear someone complaining they want action right now. BE QUIET, YOU! There's plenty action in this book, and at times it feels like we go from complex idea directly into a fight. And why not? It doesn't have to be a man with a gun, it can be any real threat. The action flows well, though sometimes the abilities of characters do make it hard to track exactly what's going on, which I would count as one of its few flaws.

And we aren't limited to action, either. We have intrigue, secretive groups, and worlds across multiple planes. Threats to the souls of all in the world, and a revelation of the truth connects it all to help bring a close to the story.

All in all, an excellent finish. If you haven't gotten into this because you wait until series are done, GET CRACKING. Take your time, there's a lot to digest.

The Ophian Rising: 8 of 10 fell deeds.
The Soul Cycle: 9 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world lose.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thoughts on the first batch of comics from Castalia House

I'm talking both Arkhaven and Dark Legion here, and we've got four books to discuss.

Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted #1: Well, Ethan van Scriver and Diversity and Comics both gave this one such a bad time. It didn't deserve all of that. The art is not great, true, but there's no problem with the text heavy spots. It's a different book. They are kind of right on the generic panel bit happening, which might work well if they decide to eventually take this another direction: motion comics, which are part comic animatic(easier with simpler styles/figures), and part audio book. I could see that working well, actually.

Right Ho, Jeeves #1: A Binge at Brinkley: I'd not read any Wodehouse before, and honestly wouldn't have, but Chuck Dixon adapting this with Gary Kwapisz on art, his collaborator from Civil War Adventures? Sure, I'll check it out. And I'm amazed. This is light, funny, and the art is top notch and filled with detail, yet more caricatured than Kwapisz' other work. I look forward to the rest.

Rebel Dead Revenge #1: Stonewall's Arm: Mr. Gary Kwapisz with a solo work, and the first Dark Legion book, which Vox has stated is done and I believe about 300 pages. The art here is far more realistic in style. The story in just issue one has enough racial material that I doubt any other publisher would touch it, never mind the story's quality of art and writing. Yeah, this is a really well done book. I believe the phrase is, "Shut up and take my money!"

eCONcomics: Well, this is interesting. The art, from what I can tell, is there to keep your attention, and help focus on concepts. And yes, there are some sequential sections, but Mr. Keen doesn't quite get to presenting concepts in the comic book idiom. The concepts are all in text, which is fine, and his writing on economics isn't a problem. I'm less convinced that economics is a subject that can be well done in comics, that is properly using its unique advantages. This book certainly did not to that end.

Now, overall, I'm really happy with these. The pricing might seem a bit high, but there are NO ads, which typically litter comics every few pages. I'm interested in what the physical will look like, but will wait until the collections hit most likely. Is it a great start? No, but I'd say it's very solid, with only eCONcomics being one I wouldn't recommend, and Quantum Mortis less strongly recommended, only because so many comic fans are art focused.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

DC Animation makes a mockery

I will make no effort to hide the fact that I really dig the old DC Elsworlds titles. For the uninformed, these take the characters of parts of the DCU and put them in a different time and place. The first one was Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. The DC animated films group decided it was time to make an animated version of the classic, and with my enjoyment of the orignal(and its sequel), I thought I would give them a chance, even after the debacle that was Batman and Harley Quinn.

And having seen the film, I can now solidly say they have lost the entire idea of what the DCU characters are, what heroism is, and are perfectly happy to throw the original under the bus to tell the subversive story they want to tell. Do NOT see this film. This will have spoilers.

As a piece completely apart from any version of the DCU, with NO knowledge of the characters, it might be fine. But give me the original by Mike Mignola, Brian Augustyn, and P. Craig Russell over this. That had great art, knew how to place a story in history, and willingly placed extra characters in the mix.

The film didn't even really try to match the mood the art set, just some mimicry of the costuming. Here's a panel from the original:

And now the costume from the animated:

Yes, its similar, but the animated version is very bright in comparison. There's also the fact that the stories deviate greatly. In the comic, Bruce Wayne starts in London, and returns to Gotham by ship, where he encounters an old family friend and lawyer. None of this is present, nor is the lawyer, who ends up our villain. So instead, we jump to the Gotham World's Fair being part of our setting(which is in the sequel), and instead of a villain outside Batman's circle, they turn one of Batman's supporting cast into the villain.

One HUGE problem with this: Elseworlds aren't about completely changing characters, they're about moving them to other settings, and giving them different backgrounds. This is a massive change to the character. Because the villain is changed to Jim Gordon, who in the comics is a hero, and not given to fanaticism or murder. If the role had gone to Harvey Dent, who is also present, I could maybe have dealt with it. But of course, both of these deny part of the original premise: that Jack the Ripper not only got away, but went to Gotham after his crimes in London, which weren't even talked about in the film.

There's also a great deal of fixation on sex in the story, which I do not recall from the original. Of course, given the other deviations from the original story and plot, I shouldn't expect any uprightness to be left in the work when they're done. And there was plenty of story to fill time if they simply told both Elseworlds books as one film. in fact, I'd guess enough for an hour and half to two hours of animation. So why bother changing it? They hate the content, they hate the history, and they hate the geeks that actually know the stuff they deride.

Save yourself the time of watching the film and find the original book.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Modiphius' John Carter of Mars

So Modiphius Entertainment finally launched their Kickstarter for the John Carter of Mars RPG. At this point, I have to say I'm not interested. Not because I wouldn't enjoy playing in the world. The Conan RPG from them has some nice ratings but is unranked on RPGgeek.

As someone that digs John Carter, why am I not that into this KS campaign?

Because they announced the project over 2 years ago. It, and the boardgame, and the miniatures they announced? Should already be out according to the announcements. What happened? They decided to push it back for the Star Trek RPG. It was announced at GenCon 2016, and they pushed Barsoom aside for Trek, instead of putting Trek in the queue. I'm honestly surprised they haven't for the Fallout miniatures game. And where's the John Carter boardgame?

So yeah, starting your production several months after your announced release date loses some of my interest and trust. What happened to the rest? Quite simple. Somebody else did a similar KS launch without prior hype.

Pinnacle Entertainment launched and ran a campaign for a game that, to my was unknown to the public beforehand. Flash Gordon is getting an RPG, and it looks like the people involved have a great love of the character and property, giving it lush art, and even getting a foreward by Sam Jones, the last actor to have the opportunity to play Flash.

From what I've seen, Modiphius is also run shoddily. Which can be par for the course in a niche industry, when you're pushing product for an even smaller niche. This is not saying that Pinnacle doesn't have it's own issues. But they know that the fans want their stuff once it's announced.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.