Sunday, September 17, 2017

On the lineup for a new comics company

Yeah, I'm going to continue from yesterday's post. Because a lot of people want to get things moving, and more of them want to write or perhaps draw, everyone wants to read, but very few want to build a whole picture.(Not that I have the funding to manage this).

Yes, the bulk of your books are going to be hero titles. Because that is the type of story that comics tells better than anything else. It's also the most expected thing. But take care to make unique characters, and not just ripoffs, though one or two will of necessity be derivative. Yeah, I don't care about your archer or gadget guy or martial artist. Shoot, use something like Mutants and Masterminds to create characters, so you've got real limits of power, and know how everything works.

But, you need some other books. In fact, I'd say close to half should not be hero titles.

Let's say you start with 10 titles. Yeah, that's a lot to manage right off. Shops won't take you very seriously without a variety. So, four or five at launch should be hero books. Perhaps 3 solo titles, one team book, and maybe an anthology for widening your world.

So you've got 5 books less. Sff/horror should be likely three of them, maybe even four. But you might want to make one for each of  the  marketing genres(yes, it's ok to play that game initially, we know it's a lie). And if you have an author that can tell a good story in it, have a western, it can be straight or weird. If you can, try for a sword and sorcery book, Robert E. Howard is still having adaptations done that move well enough, same with Edgar Rice Burroughs.

There's your 10 book start, if you can get all that. Three months after launch, you add another hero title, and maybe another sff book.Or you can add something like a spy story or a crime book. It's not like there's any restrictions on what you publish unless you want there to be.

Another note: There need to be very clear terms for writers and artists on what they're paid for, and their royalty returns for any creations they add(which would be subject to approval). This shouldn't need to be said, but as most comics guys are lousy businessmen, I'm saying it.

Yes, finding all the talent needed would be a big challenge. That's not to mention getting listed in a distributor(Daiamond right now, by default, but I know there's something in the works). And you have to build word of mouth. This in fact will require a good bit of startup money, because you want about 3 months ready to go BEFORE launch. So you can hit up a few small cons, talk to stores and readers, and show them what you're doing. Have an issue or two pre printed(not final, maybe just pencilled and lettered) to give a shop owner, so they can talk to their customers. Build Buzz.

Yeah, I put all this rant out there in the lame hopes that somebody might be paying attention and do it. Maybe even offer me a job to help keep things in line, because comics would be cool to work in. I'm not going to hold my breath, but 4 color dreams are nice.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

On the Comics Collapse. Oh, and there's going to be a giveaway.

Now, I know I haven't written about the problems within the comics industry before, despite my posts mentioning and reviewing some books, and trying to boost comics that I think are worth a look. Partly this was because I still have part of the industry that tells good stories: non-hero books are a bit less converged than hero books in general. That's not to say there isn't a lot, but I can still find stories that are well written and drawn and don't play politics all the time, or at all. There are still good stories in sff comics, and I still get an occasional action or horror book. Hero books are rare reads for me now.

But, JD Cowan, Brian Niemeier, Jon Del Arroz, and others, notably the Diversity & Comics you tube channel have laid enough groundwork that I think I should chime in with some thoughts. Unlike most of these guys, I'm more into the DC universe for my heroes, so my references will be that direction.

It's not a recent event that comics have gone downhill. This is only the most recent in many events that have hurt the industry. And sales have historically shown every bad move, not immediately in every case(variant cover fever)(death of superman). But eventually there's a sales collapse after each one of these chases of fashion that comics has done. Collectablility was a terrible thing to pursue; comics are not MTG cards, nor should they be.

Each reboot of comics universe seen changes to the world and characters. Sometimes this has strictly been to create a history that made sense. But a lot of times it's been to create "jump on" points, in the belief that people that don't read comics will magically come in if it's now issue one, and you don't need to know the character. BS! I have friends that don't read comics that think if they want to, they have to start with Action Comics #1 and read ALL OF IT. So part of it is perception; whether or not it matters now, a character's history intimidates some people.

What do they do wrong in most every reboot? They change some characters. Not refine, like add details that fit established traits and history, but change. Let's make such character GAY! When they've a long history that says nothing of the sort. You want to play that game? How about a Green Lantern that's a family man? They did it in the animated series, and the character was cool. Or a celibate Green Arrow? Oh, wait, Connor Hawke was when written by CHUCK DIXON. Too bad Connor doesn't exist anymore that I know of. My last DC title I read was All Star Western(Jonah Hex), and I quit after Booster Gold pulled him into the present.

Now, a lot of characters are being replaced by "new, relevant" versions that have NOTHING whatsoever to do with the originals. Thia has gone back to the New 52 for DC, and Marvel has been doing the same thing more recently. But when they make Superman not relate to people, they lose readers. When Martian Manhunter isn't THE common part of Justice League of America, it doesn't work, especially when they've made him untrustworthy and shifty. This is not to mention stuff like the Chinese Superman and co. they've added recently(which I have no real opinion of), especially when they had heroes everywhere in the world. But let's toss them and igonre history for lowest common denominator bs.

How hard will it be to setup an alternative distributor at this point? I have no clue, but I will say stores don't want to order from EVERY worthwhile small writer and artist self publishing. So, if comics are going to be rescued from the death SJWs are engineering, a distributor is necessary as all get out. And don't talk to me about digital and web comics. I don't have a giant screen needed to read them well, and the files are huge. Webcomics can be okay, but I prefer my books physically.  Manga isn't something I'm for or against, and I'll likely grab My Hero Academia as the anime has been good, and Mr. Cowan recommends it.

Now, to the giveaway:

I found this day at my local library's friendshop both volumes of Rocketo, which I have discussed  before. As I don't need another set, I'm going to give them away together. These are library discards, and have some wear and use.Comment  below for the giveaway, which will be drawn at random on 9/23/2017.



When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alt Culture, or not.

Vox Day put up a post responding to yet another article on building another culture. Seriously. I hear about or find another article every few months.  Vox mentions the fact that conservative media has never talked about a Castalia House book. I've seen an interview in a Catholic online mag with John C. Wright that only talked about his Tor books, and this was recent. The fact is, the so called media organs of conservatism and Christianity don't benefit from helping relevant material grow. They benefit from being able to whine that the establishment is leftist and dishonest.

Music has largely been hostile to faith and conservatism for decades. Yes, there are exceptions for faith, notably country music, but that's been getting sidelined even there. But you look outside it, on FM stations? Lust filled lefty music is what you find. Oh, you want to go with classical?  You really don't know how left most of the performers are, do you? Oh yes, there are exceptions, and most of them focus on being a better musician. Look at what they do with "reimagings" of great opera: they change the setting, change character sexes, etc., and then, while you still have the story, it's being told in a manner against the original. That's ignoring the garbage pieces that get foundation and government grants. Not going into the Christian music scene.
 
Movies? There's plenty of lower budget stuff out there. Kevin Sorbo's done a ton when he should have been one of the current big stars. A lot of actors even just keep mostly quiet, but have their own rules which have hurt their careers. Neal McDonough is a Catholic who won't do some scenes, and it's moved his career more to supporting roles or antagonists.  But, foreign ventures like the movie Guardians prove that you don't need Hollywood itself to do good looking action films.

Books? Well, just another place where the movers and shakers mostly prefer to stay ignorant. This case, unlike music, I'm glad about. Why? Because their willful ignorance leaves a place for people like me. If those media were actually paying attention to small press and independent  authors, I'd have a much harder time with audience growth. They want to ignore anything but big NY publishing, I'll gladly fill part of that huge gap.

Now, as to other reasons aside from selling the "can we build an alternative culture" article again. Most of it comes down to the fact that people are largely lazy. I've seen it like crazy with people at church that will go to a concert of the youth pastor's cover band, but won't bother with their musician friend's group that's been working for years and building hours of music.  A lot of folks also want to be able to talk about the same entertainment as everyone else. This view of culture is the real culprit.

I won't drift very far into this, but there's a real purpose to culture, which is part of why Andrew Breitbart's statement "Politics is downstream from culture." rings true. The Thomist philosopher Josef Pieper covers it very well in his Leisure: the Basis of Culture.  And the core idea is this: Culture is a part of our worship. The town festivals and celebrations all started as HOLY DAYS, on a very local level. For centuries, the Church funded the creation of a great amount of music, architecture, sculpture, and other art, funding artists both internally and externally of Church hierarchy. Now? Most of that is done by people in "ministry" on the Protestant side, or by clergy who may or may not actually be good at the art on the Catholic side(look at modern Catholic hymnody).  While I could go further, I'm not ready for it to devolve into a rant or grow into a full fledged post on its own.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Injustic Magazine Review: Phantaxis #6

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we look at magazine that isn't looking to be pulp, but rather a normal sff magazine. That said, this read proved far more worthwhile than the last time I picked up Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, or Asimov's. Let's take a look at the contents.

Stories:

For Hannah by Mark Bilsborough- The story is a big exercise in unrequited love. There's also a lot against male fantasizing, of the incel(involuntary celibate) type, because those guys really need to be picked on a bit more. Well, ok, it's more like the Zuckerberg type that has money, but no social skills. Kinda meh, as there's no action, but is more a drama piece, with no real conflict.

Playmates by Arlen Feldman- For the most part, this is a tender and amusing tale. There's a lot here on the moral hazard of cloning, and making the creation of life simple. The ending is a bit gut wrenching, as while the father might know who can make his life more miserable, he doesn't seem to know the joy his daughter can bring him. Again, there's no real sense of conflict, though this flows pretty well without.

Evens and Odds by Vanessa Kittle- Another cloning story, though this one is far more straightforward, and there is definitely a bit of conflict, though no action. There's another moral hazard aspect here, as well as unscrupulous businessmen.

The Ship of Theseus by Phillip Brian Hall- This was a great read. It's a detective story in a time when lifespan has been extended indefinitely, and nobody retires. This follows a detective assigned to a missing persons case, revolving around a secretive group they call pro-deathers for their rejection of immortality. We also see some philosophical discussion of the humanity of "human androids", people uploaded into android bodies.

An Infernal Malady by Michael Haynes- This story is dark. There's no conflict, action or hope. In fact, it's more a glimpse into a malevolent mystical existence.

The Home Secretary is Safe by C. R. Berry- This vignette features small scale time travel, treating it more like a puzzle. There's a small amount  of action, but again, no conflict. In many ways the story is cynical.

Daughter of the Western Winds by Jenni Wood- Hey, a story with real action and conflict, internal and external! In some ways, this feels like watching anime set in medieval Japan, perhaps earlier. The elements all seem to fit together well, and there's an interesting dichotomy between the fantastic powers in the story and the false humility of the tiered nature of the society.

The Wheel of Fortune by Matencera Wolf- Joy. A dystopian world where the lower classes have everything rationed, and our main character is seen as a worthy sacrifice for societal reform by one of the upper echelon. At least there's a minimum of action here.

F-Bombs by Allen Kuzara- While this once again has no conflict, and no real action, this does have a feel like one of the moderately interesting entries from Forbidden Thoughts.(Superversive, you guys might get in touch.) We do have a good glimpse of a father trying desperately to keep his partial custody of his daughter.

Urgent Care by Dale T. Phillips- This is the aftermath of a story. The world is very distopian, as people get violent over everything, apparently, and health care is rationed unless you can pay right now. It's an interesting glimpse.

A Guy Walks into a Bar by Russ Wartrous and Mike McHone- A fantasy story recounted in a fantasy tavern. The storyteller and listener(his friend) are not part of the story, but merely scenery of some interest in a recounting, allowing for the storyteller's embellishments.

Flash Fiction:
Honestly, this stuff is entertaining, but completely forgettable. Mostly they move you between stories a bit easier, by taking you out of setting like an ad, but without the purchase compulsion.

Final thoughts:
Phantaxis looks to sit in a very odd place in sff right now. It's an actual middle ground publication, with some material that seems to fit the establishment crowd and some that fits the puppy/castalia house/pulprev/superversive crowds. Most of the writing was pretty decent. I'll likely give it another try in the future. Even the stuff I didn't like did not drag. An actually diverse magazine. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Game Mechanics: Worker Placement

This time, I'm going to go over a game mechanic that is both very standardized, and yet very diverse at the same time. There are a lot of games that use worker placement, and many of them do it in similar fashion, but now and then really unique implementations come up. Images come from BoardGame Geek.

So firstly, let's define worker placement. Boardgame Geek has a great page on it, and states that it is more properly termed "action drafting", as players are taking turns drafting actions from a commonly available pool. Most typically, this is done with meeples on actions spaces.






The image above is from Lords of Waterdeep, a Dungeons and Dragons themed Worker placement game. This game has a very simple implementation overall, where placements get resources, build buildings(add spaces), get contracts, or fill contracts(for the most part). The players are thematically the town's lords who organize groups of adventurers and send them on quests. Worker spaces are exclusive (one person gets to take the action). In addition to the physical version(with an expansion), there's now a digital implementation, available through Steam, and soon app stores(if not already).

Now, if you want something that is a bit gentler themed, how about winemaking? Viticulture plays with 6, and has variable numbers of  action spaces dependent on player count. There's also more steps to the process here, as players have to plant vines, harvest grapes, and the crush them into wine, not to mention building up your vineyard. Then you have to have the right wine(s) to fill the orders you've obtained. The game is divided into years and seasons, with certain actions being available only in season, and each worker being only available once a year.



If you're wanting a game that feels more like you're always scrambling to get it all done, Agricola is a great choice(though I think it was better with its former publisher). As medieval farmers, you have to plow fields, sow vegetables and grain, raise sheep, pigs, and cows, build fences, build your house, have kids, get occupations, and make sure everyone is fed(sometimes those animals just don't last). Agricola has a point salad method of scoring, so you want to get as much done as you can, and you can't focus on any of it, as you lose points for not getting some of these.














Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is one of a handful of games that use dice instead of meeples for your workers. The value rolled usually has some effect on its useability or usefulness. In this game, your workers also may become aware they're in a dystopia and walk off. But, as far as worker spaces, we have three types here, exclusive, replacement, and additive. Players can hinder others' progress in this game through construction of distopian buildings.





Stone Age uses dice and workers a bit differently. Each resource has a number of spaces available, and other actions have one each(two needed for reproduction). Each turn a player places worker(s) in one area. When all have been placed, each worker in a resource area grants a die to be rolled for that resource, with multiples of a number generating more(total, not on the die). You also want to build huts and collect artifacts with those resources. Below, green will roll 3 dice, blue will roll 2, and red and yellow each one die to get wood.



And for unique implementations, none have yet had the cool factor of Tzollk'in: The Mayan Calendar. This game has clock motion determining when you get things based on rotations. I can't really say more, as this is the one here I haven't played.




And last, I'm going to mention Keyflower, as it is also a worker placement game, in addition to an auction game. Only one color can be used for placement on a tile(determined by the first placement); later placements have to increase; and each tile can only hold 6 meeples. Better buildings from the auctions will encourage others to use your tiles, which will give you more meeples on later turns to use.


There's a lot out there, and many are variants of contract fulfillment or engine building, or both. But the way they do it makes for some decent choices of play, and different opportunity cost calculations.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Injustice Film Review: Batman and Harley Quinn

Now, I had read John C. Wright's half review and was very much down about this response. Then I had seen later responses on Twitter that said it was ok. I needed to watch it for myself. Thus, now you will be presented with my response to the film and JCW's half review. This will be a bit spoiler heavy, as I'm partly responding to a JCW review.

First things first, as you encounter it in the disc menu: the music is just not quite right. Also, the opening sequence has the Floronic Man killing a man, with blood shown. Not right for this story for reasons I'll hit up later(same reasons apply to music).

Now, to some of JCW's points and summary:

First, Batman blackmailing Sarge Steel over his S+M habits: I don't really mind that, but why did Sarge Steel try to banter with Batman? That's lame, this isn't a comedy presentation of Batman.

Bats criticizing cops missing evidence(no big), and Nightwing finding Harley somewhat on accident(again, no big). Though Batman usually doesn't come off as arrogant, merely assured and competent.

Mr. Wright has some issue with Nightwing fighting Harley when she started the fight. He failed to note that in the comics, Nightwing is usually pulling his punches in that type of situation. Women are a major weakness for him, and that's WHY Harley lasted long enough to hit him with the diluted Joker venom.

Umm, then there's the bondage and costume sex setup. I have issue with that, as Nightwing is a moral character for the most part. But JCW has issue with Nightwing not being able to escape, ignoring that if Harley has ever been part of a bondage scene(likely with her relations, and this presentation), she would be able to keep any escape artist tied up.

Batman walking in on them tickling each other: LAME.

Harley's gas in the Batmobile and the ex she tracks and beats up: also lame.

The barfight with the big words over the bar is a throwback to the Adam West show, which feels way off here.


And there ends JCW's comments, as he stopped watching.

He missed a great lying diatribe on global warming and deforestation. When the USA has more trees now than at its founding, they're playing crappy agenda games. And, being plant related villians that can actually talk with plants, they should know better. And focus their activities in areas that are the real polluters and destroyers of the wild.

Harley and Ivy had a ridiculous girl friendship scene after Harley had triple crossed her to try to save folks. I don't know if that's anywhere near realistic, but I don't care.

He also missed the really bad presentation of Swamp Thing. It's worshipful, he's a huge physical character and part of the Parlaiment of Trees. This was so bad. Batman would never be in awe, but understanding. Nightwing would perhaps be in awe for awhile, but he'd likely not be at this time. Floronic Man and Poison Ivy? Sure. That makes sense, but Batman and Nightwing would not worship what has been turned into a eco-Buddha.

Then there's the bit with setting the Floronic Man afire, and Harley's new show, Ask Dr. Quinn (actually a bit funny), which somehow misses the point that she did have a Psych liscence, and became Harley because she fell in love while treating the Joker.

This film had a freaking huge case of not knowing what it was. Too much was played for laughs, and I mean obvious comedy setups, not dry humor like was seen in B:TAS. There are reasons I bring this up. With casting, they harken back to that show(both Batman and Nighwing played by the same guys). Costuming and character design match pretty closely to that as well. But the rest?

The music has moments. Those moments come only when they're borrowing from the old Bruce Timm series(they borrow from Batman Beyond, even). But only moments.

The scripting and even the action feel off. In part because they're pushing a weird mixture of Adam West and TAS Batman versions, with S+M humor added. This of course ignores that the mixture, minus the S+M has already been done, and done very well with Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Fun, and funny, yet Batman takes crimefighting seriously, and is largely a serious character.

Now, part of the reasons for this terrible comprehension can be found in the special features. They seem to think Batman: The Animated Series was grim and dark. And that the Adam West Batman was pure humor and fun. To which I say, they've got it backwards. and their misunderstanding of both shows is exactly why they got it wrong.

Adam West Batman may have been a comedy, but they were dead serious about their point. The show was in many ways poking fun at the idea of Law and Order, and showing those for it to be "square". It was a show for the condescending "smart set" of its time, who thought comics were for morons, and ideas of Good and Evil likewise. This awareness does not diminish my appreciation for the show, but I was born over a decade later, and love the cheesiness of it anyway.

Batman: The Animated Series on the other hand, was a straight depiction of Good vs. Evil, and showed greatly the impact. Sure, the color palette was dark: how better to show his actions as those of light than for those to outshine him?  This Batman is clearly in some ways the same character that would run with the bomb on the docks from the Adam West film. But he doesn't bumble around, he isn't played for laughs. He's a warrior, a knight in dark armor(it's camoflage), and those make for someone people want to BE. Who wants to be the truly dark version, a corruptible vigilante for hire? No, as a kid one wants to be the shining symbol of light.

In fact if anything is dark about the show, it's the way Bruce Wayne manipulates himself for the sake of Batman's cases. And even that is played as part of the cost of being Batman. In order to be the incorruptible symbol feared by criminals, he must be a bit of a fop and a fool. At least until someone looks really closely. Is he ever really the playboy? Unlikely, but he plays it. The corrupt businessman? Nope, but you have to look at his dealings first.

Of course, this complete misunderstanding of their creations causes me a bit of concern for the next film, Gotham by Gaslight. The preview says they're adding material, which if it was Master of the World, I wouldn't care, but there's a bit of other stories that looks like they added. Catwoman from Batman: Two Faces doesn't belong here. Why must they keep playing. As Hitchcock said, "Just shoot the play."

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Star Trek: Ascendancy with five players

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to play the game with both available expansions, being the only the second chance I've had to play with more than the base box 3(the other being last year at the GenCon release, where they had early versions of the Cardassians). Not having played the game for a good while, we missed a few rules(the rulebook is well organized, but dense), but had a lot of fun regardless.

We did play with randomized turn order throughout, rather than bidding once we met up, to save time(5 players, most effectively new= long version of a long game).

The Good:

The new races have rules and technology decks that suit them perfectly. The Cardassians have to have a ship in orbit for a planet to produce for them, and the Ferengi can't build culture nodes, but can buy the resource. The ships and control nodes are unique sculpts for each race, and the player boards also are designed after the races ship consoles.

The game definitely feels richer with more players overall, though they all need to meet up to make that happen(one didn't make that happen until the end). There's a bit of desperation once the other players realize one is closing on victory, and a newfound willingness to cooperate, in the hopes of getting another turn or two to win yourself.

The Bad:

When the base box was released, Gale Force 9 had advertised September and December release dates for these faction expansions, and only released them finally at GenCon this year(9 and 6 months late). I can understand not meeting those, and the game community is pretty forgiving about that, but this hurt the game visibly in its first year. I don't know of many game groups that are three players, most sit at four to six, and that's private groups.

How did it hurt the game? If expanded, it would have reached more ratings on BoardGameGeek. Yes, a lot of people base game buying decisions just on game ratings and rankings. Its play time already keeps people away(advertised hour/player), and it doesn't need more. From the turn order cards, it looks like the plan is to eventually hit 10 factions, but I have no further evidence as the next expansion isn't a player one, but a universal foe: the Borg.

Overall:

 This was a lot of fun, and I hope to get back to it sooner next time. GF9 really needs to get off their butts and meet deadlines. The longer they wait and delay, the smaller the audience for each expansion will be, and they need to strike while gamers have their wallets open.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.