Comicpalooza Picture-rama!!!

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

I haven't played Assassin's
Creed, but I recognize the look
immediately. Not a bad fan effort.

This will be both an enhanced and slim post. There's plenty of pictures, but not much that I'll be writing tonight.

I figured I'd take a few choice pictures of all the excellent costumes and looks that people have put together for today's trip to Houston's comic convention, Comicpalooza. It was quite the feast for the eyes, as it seems every geek, nerd, dork and dweeb from Houston was there, and in proud form. I unapologetically count myself among their number!

I've been here all weekend so far, in both a professional and fan capacity. The presentation about libraries and the comic book industry went well, and there were plenty of interested hangers-on afterward who wanted to talk to me and my co-panelists. It was a nice feeling. :) We worked the HPL table afterwards, and helped customers register for library cards and showed that the library carries plenty of graphic novels. We got quite a few applications, which was wonderful.

The Doctor was there, along
with his wife, the TARDIS. :)

After that, I had purchased a 3-day pass, and wandered to all the various events and exhibits at the con. As you can see below, there was plenty to see, and my phone actually ran out of power from taking so many pictures, among other reasons. Take a look and enjoy the images!

I was particularly struck by two things: first off, the costumes looked great. Everyone obviously put their passion and effort into their presentation, and there were so many people asking and posing for pictures that it was very heartwarming. Also, everyone in costume was very accommodating and cheerful about posing for pics. There was nothing but happy reactions to picture requests, and I think that says a lot of good about this particular culture of Houstonites!

Possibly very amusingly, I'm looking forward to the day when I can be the big geek someone stops and asks to take a photo with or of.

Come on, Nightwing costume...

Wonderful Codex costume effort from a photogenic con-goer!

Possibly more pictures for tomorrow's post!

Insane he may be, but this Deadpool was very eager to pose for
pictures!

There were many exhibits, but I thought this Tentacle Kitty booth was particularly adorable-yet-disturbing.

Contrary to public perception, Rorschach turned out to be
completely gracious and polite in public.

A Dalek and K-9 display... :)

Cap and Iron Man!

A completely silent, but totally expressive Portal Companion
Cube!

The most awesome Harley Quinn at the con today! Not only
did she look the part, but she was completely in character, with
the voice and everything!

An excellent Riddler costume! Disagree? Play Arkham City!

A bird's-eye view of the exhibits from the second floor of GRB!

And a corresponding look at the stage floor!

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This Week's Adventures In Comic-dom

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

So, it looks like I'm completing a resolution I hadn't even consciously made for this year.

I think I remember at some point, telling myself that one of my goals in life was to be able to attend comic book or pop culture conventions as more than just a fan, as someone who has at least the slightest shred of authority and/or community in the comics world. I figured that, eventually, when if I ever manage to get some comics written and published, this would be the reason it happened. In the mean time I'd work on attending as a fan, making connections, and so on.

It turns out, in some small way, that I'm already going to be doing the expert thing.

For those of you who don't already know, Houston will be playing host to Comicpalooza, which is in its fifth year (I believe), and has grown significantly with each passing year. I've been to all but one of them, including the first year, which was way out on the northwest side of town in a small strip mall. Now it's at the George R. Brown Convention Center, its third year in this venue, and attendance is expected to be in the many thousands.

I will be attending all weekend this year, and can't wait to see all the celebrities and cosplayers, the writers and illustrators, both famous and struggling. I've met and worked with a few of them already, and will hopefully lay the foundations for working with others in the future. But unlike previous years, I won't just be attending as a fan and an annoying chatty guy looking to rub elbows with the people who make the comics industry work.

I'll be attending as a presenter.

This Friday, on the first day of the convention--heck, during the first couple hours of the convention--I and three other comic book-inclined librarians from the Houston Public Library system will be giving a presentation entitled, "Barbara Gordon and You: The Library's Role in the Comic Book Industry." It's an hour-long panel about how libraries can benefit the comic book industry in various ways, and vice versa. Essentially, we'll be discussing how libraries benefit the various communities associated with the industry: the publishers, the reading public, creators, schools and academic institutions.

My section--which should last all of 10 minutes, if I'm lucky--will talk about how libraries have, do, and will continue to benefit creators. It's something I have a little experience with, as I've moderated panels at both the library and at Teen Book Con that have been about graphic novelists, their contributions to the field, and how they got their start in comics. I've therefore gotten to work with some pretty remarkable individuals, and aside from my librarian work with customers, have a little perspective on what they would consider helpful and positive about libraries.

Does this mean I will stop pursuing my dream of writing comics? Hardly! One of the big reasons I want to go to Comicpalooza this weekend is to network with artists and see if I can find a collaborator or three for my comic. I've had good and bad experiences working with artists, but there's no reason not to try again, and this is the perfect environment to get a partner and see what we can do.

But in the meantime, I at least get to say that I'm attending in at least a semi-professional capacity. And this makes me smile a little in my soul. :-)

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April Successes and Failures

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

April was a fairly significant month on the writing front. As you may or may not recall, I mentioned that I'd be doing a whole lot of writing during that month. Essentially, I was going to write 100 pages of scripted material through Scriptfrenzy during the month, while still maintaining my daily posts here in the Comics Cove. As it turned out, I managed to crank out about 37 pages, little more than a third of my goal, while still maintaining at least one post per day here.

So, it didn't work out the way I'd hoped, but it helped me understand where my limits were, while I still managed to get some scripted material written.

I don't know what it is about creative writing that really seems to take it out of me, but I truly do have a harder time with fiction than I do with reviews, observational posts, and other nonfiction. I'm actually really surprised at how I've managed to hold on to the streak I've created here--at the end of this month I'll hit six months of posting every day--but I think for now, it's probably the thing I need to do to keep myself writing on a consistent basis. Not that I plan on abandoning fiction--that's the end goal, eventually--but it's going to be on a sporadic basis for the time being, until I can find a way to cultivate the time and creative energy to do both regularly.

Speaking of time, there were a couple of other factors that played into my ability to write extra on top of my regular posting, including a conference, and a convention--at the latter of which I was a moderator all day. They really didn't suck up extra time so much as displace my work schedule and routines enough that it was a challenge to add extra writing work to what I was already doing. I don't there's ever going to be a good time to add to the writing load I do, but April was perhaps a more challenging time than I should have picked.

In any case, I'm glad I tried, and glad I had the good sense to not overextend myself too much.

I'm a little behind on the cosplay side of things as well, but some progress has been made. I'm basically focusing on the Nightwing costume, which is proving to be a difficult challenge. I've recently bought material for a latex mask, which eventually I'll need to have fit, painted, and sculpted to my face. My girlfriend, incidentally, is the one who suggested this method, and the one will be layering the thing over my face in the coming days. At this point, I'm in unfamiliar territory, and trusting her suggestions here.

What remains at this point are gloves and a top, and these are where I'm really hamstrung. Ideally, I want the blue hawk pattern on a black top, the ends of which extend all the way down the sleeves to two fingers of the gloves. Of course, I have no clue how to go about making this happen that doesn't involve buying something that's already made with this design in mind, which I don't want to do. I could go with black gloves and forego the blue on them for the time being, but I'm not sure what to do about the top. Any advice, cosplayers?

In the meantime, Comicpalooza approaches, which I'm really excited about. I'd love to have the costume completed by then, but am not gonna hold my breath for it. Hopefully I'll see some cosplayers there who might have some suggestions about what I could do to get a decent home-made look for the Nightwing costume. We'll have to see.

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What's the Best Superpower? part III: And the Winner Is...

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

Alright, it's time for me to finally answer the question that all comic book geeks will inevitably ask of themselves and each other: what is the best superpower?

I started writing about this question a few days ago, and have since followed it up with another post as I realized how complex and nuanced this question actually is. Now that I've set up the terms and conditions, it's time to finally pick a winner. So, let's get down to it!

So, I've established a few things up to this point:

  1. It's not all about the powers. It's also about environment, your tactical cognition, and some other external factors, like luck. No one ability can trump another all the time, in every possible situation.
  2. You will be placed in a comic book or other fictitious world or setting, where there are other super-powered individuals to work with or against.
  3. You will be given a power set as opposed to a single superpower. For instance, super-strength could have a direct relation to enhanced durability. It doesn't mean you automatically get multiple powers; you would have to develop or discover all but the first, which would emerge spontaneously.

With all this in mind, here are a few favorites I've considered, and why:

Telekinesis

This one is a favorite of many Jedi aspirants and Jean Grey devotees, and it certainly does have its appeal. The ability to move things with your mind would give you a potentially huge advantage over just about anyone in a fight. Hulk too strong for you? Levitate him and toss him back a few blocks. Need to fly somewhere? It might take a lot of training and concentration, but you could probably use this ability to develop flight as a power stunt.

Plus, consider the possibilities here. You can move things with your mind, not just objects. This could be a possible gateway to other power stunts, such as elemental manipulation (earth would be easiest, but fire? That would take talent), energy manipulation, and so on, depending on how advanced you go with it. With enough imagination and training, this psionic ability could allow you access to a multitude of other powers.

Drawbacks? At least one big one comes to mind. First off, you need to be able to concentrate and focus when you use these abilities. I would imagine that the more advanced your tricks are, the more you'd need to concentrate. If an enemy uses abilities or circumstances that disrupt your ability to do this, you'll become pretty useless in a fight. Storm has very slyly used this tactic on Jean Grey during at least one Danger Room session, to astonishing effect.

Telepathy

Another favorite among aficionados of this debate, this potentially devastating power set could allow you to defeat your opponent without even lifting a finger. Forget being able to read their thoughts to anticipate their moves--already a very cool thing. Imagine telling your opponent to simply stop attacking you and to restrain themselves--and they do.

Aside from the ability to read and send thoughts, there's a lot of room here to develop power stunts that will expand this awareness and exert external control over the minds of others. Astral projection, anyone? Or, instead of just being able to make opponents follow your mental orders, you simply take control of their minds, and through that, their bodies? I've even seen instances where telepaths develop a kind of mental blast, basically frying their opponents' brains through telepathy in combat. Personally I think that's a bit of a stretch, but I can't argue that this precedent hasn't been set.

Drawbacks? Like with telekinesis, and really any ability that involves fine external manipulation, you need to be able to concentrate. Also, telepaths are often targets of the first wave of any attack, as a savvy strategist knows how they can often take out multiple opponents at once. Defenses are often developed specifically against them--think Magneto's helmet, for instance--which would render them otherwise powerless against an opponent.

Gravity Manipulation

I think what appeals to me about this set is the number of practical uses you could put it to. Need to move a heavy piece of furniture? Reduce the gravity around it, and suddenly you can move it yourself! Want to piss off your little sister? Subtly increase her personal gravity so she mysteriously gains weight when she steps on the scale!

Obviously there are a multitude of powers you could develop from this set. Flight, by manipulating, deleting, and directing gravitons. Stuns, by increasing someone's personal gravity by a lot and essentially rooting them to the ground. Mimicking of super-strength by reducing the gravity of objects and other people. And I'm sure there are plenty of imaginative types out there who can think of even more uses for this set.

Concentration is a major drawback of this power set, just like with telekinesis and telepathy. Another glaring weakness is that you need... well... gravity to use this superpower. Essentially, this set is useless in outer space. Stay out of the spaceways if you have this power set and want to use it effectively.

Energy Blasts

Come on, who hasn't thought of this one? Having the ability to call forth a destructive burst of energy is one of the simplest, yet most viscerally appealing ideas in comics. Something in your way? Just blast it into a million pieces. Don't like close-quarters fighting? Get back and pick people off from far away. It's a simple, but effective power set.

The big weakness of the energy blast is that it doesn't really allow for much in the way of development. If you're lucky, over time you can learn to control and manipulate the type of energy to blast, but history generally relegates energy wielders to being blasters. There's also the issue of your reputation for destruction, which, while it may not directly affect a fight, may have huge ramifications about the circumstances of any conflict. Finally, energy wielders usually have some big limitation on their destructive ability, be it the inability to control it or the need to store it up for a long time before building up enough energy to release effectively.

While all these powers are great, and I considered them strongly, there can be only one set that's a winner. And the winner is...

Power Mimicry

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I think this power is the most versatile and potentially useful of all other power sets out there, particularly if you can figure out a way to extend and develop it. It calls for an extremely high level of tactical cognition to use effectively, and effectively gives you a taste of virtually every superpower out there.

In the short term, it essentially puts you on (somewhat) equal footing with any other super-powered opponent you come up against, with the one big caveat that they're likely to have used their own superpower a lot longer than you have. Sure, you might be able to mimic Superman's strength and ability to fly, but he's been using them for decades, and likely knows how to use them more effectively than you will.

In the long term, it could make you one of the smartest and most effective fighters in your world--assuming you survive enough battles and take enough lumps. Think about it. You'll have learned to change tactics quickly, play to your strengths by adjusting and improvising quickly, and know how to use a wide range of abilities wielded by other super-powered individuals.

If you want to go all Peter Petrelli with this, the possibilities become limitless. Imagine being able to summon any power you've mimicked in the past, at will. Imagine being able to work with and develop any of them. It'd take a lot of training and a lot of time, but potentially, this power could rule them all.

In the interim, though, you'd have to be a clever fighter. And I'm a fan of any ability that makes you have to constantly push your own boundaries to be effectively used.

Power mimicry, for the win!

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What's the Best Superpower? part II: Environmental Considerations

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

When I wrote about having the best superpower, I established that, first and foremost, the superpower alone isn't going to determine victory in a fight. It's going to depend on how you use it versus how your opponent uses his or her own abilities, what kind of environment you're fighting in, and oftentimes just how lucky you are. With so many variables in play, there really is no one perfect superpower suited to all situations.

I'd like to set some rules about the macro-environment in which you would answer this question. G-Man establishes that you would be put in a comic book world and allowed one superpower--only one. Fair enough on first glance, but before we go on, I'd like to set up a couple of other scenarios by changing around some of the terms of his premise. For instance, consider:

  • The World: what if you were given superpowers in "this" world, or real life? There are, of course, no other people in this world known to have the kinds of superpowers you find in comic books (at least, not conclusively proven). This would change the entire way you thought about this question, as there are no other metahumans you may potentially have to fight, work with, or otherwise compete against. You'd be the only person in this world with, say, flight, or invisibility or super-strength. It doesn't mean you wouldn't have to have a high level of tactical cognition, however. If you became a threat because of your powers, the government or some other entity would try to find people, ways, and methods to take away your power or use it against you. You'd also have to deal with the possibility that the world would fear and hate you due to your remarkable difference from the rest of the world. Sound familiar?
  • Superpower: what if we thought of powers a little more liberally--say, power sets as opposed to a single superpower? I think this question bears consideration, as it seems a little constricting to say, "You can only have super-strength and nothing else. You can punch through steel and lift cars and nothing else. At. All." Usually powers tend to come in a set. For example, super-strength is usually far more than just that. Where the strength comes from and how it manifests could have potentially far-reaching ramifications for a new young hero. Take a look at the Hulk. Yeah, he's super-strong, but is that all? Absolutely not! He's also nigh invulnerable, also from the gamma bomb incident! I think it's generally fair to assume that invulnerability--a separate power for this and most other such purposes--is a possible ability that either comes with or can be developed within a super-strength power set. Games such as City of Heroes and X-Men Legends/Marvel Ultimate Alliance often make allowances for developing such related-yet-different power groupings.

For the purpose of my answer to this question, I'm going to change up the terms slightly. I agree with G-Man in that this question is most fairly answered by placing yourself in a comic book or fantasy world with other superpowered heroes and villains (though I do think the scenario I proposed is worth thinking about). I do think, however, that my own inclination towards power sets will take precedence when I answer.

Next time around I'll explore several top contenders for ideal power sets before naming off the one I think would work best for me. Until then, enjoy!

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What's the Best Superpower? part I: It's Not Just About the Power

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

Thanks to this article on Comicvine, I've spent the last couple of days thinking of my own consistent answer to the question all comic book geeks ask, debate, and fight over. Put succinctly, which comic book power is the best?

Of course, with the question phrased in such an open-ended manner, it's very easy to argue endlessly about which power is better than that power, and why it would trump or be trumped by that power over there. It's one of the things that make superhero comics such a joy to read and discuss with others, since the possibilities are virtually endless. Some powers work better under particular conditions than others, and various settings and environments can make a huge difference.

"I'm kind of useless on a hot, dry day!"

Let's use Bobby Drake, the Iceman, as an example. He has the mutant ability to pull moisture from the surrounding air, convert it to frozen solid water (you know, ice), and utilize ice in various ways: armor, projectiles, ice slides, and so on. It's a pretty cool power--pun intended--but what happens in less than ideal conditions?

I'm sure Bobby will be fine for battle on a cold day or a during the regular span of temperatures, but what happens when things get abnormally hot? What if he has to do battle in Hell, or the Stygian abyss of Mephisto's realm (arguably the same as Hell) or Houston, Texas in August (also arguably the same as Hell). I don't know if it's purely psychological, or if there is a temperature threshold at which Bobby's ice powers simply start to impair, but it's an issue that's caused him more than one moment of doubt as an X-Man over the years.

So, we know ice powers aren't flawless. Technically, no power is. It's all in how you use them, and how smart you are about it.

Avatar: the Last Airbender supported this theory by showing that no bending element was superior to another. It all depended on the bender's particular mastery of their element, how smart they were about fighting with it, and the skill of the opposing bender.

"Power in firebending comes from the breath,
not the muscle!"

Prince Zuko, who turned out to be an excellent firebender by the series' end, is a prime example of this. He was not a smart fighter when we see him at the beginning of season one: he wastes energy on over-large movements, doesn't focus on his breath control, and expends energy by depending on his temper. Eventually he becomes a more efficient fighter, learning the value of hitting an opponent's weak points with a relatively little energy. By the time he takes on Aang as a firebending pupil, he's learned a good deal of control, both internal and external, over his abilities, and truly is one of the better firebenders out there.

I make these points to illustrate that, oftentimes, powers alone aren't going to decide the outcome of a battle. It's simply not going to be the only factor, nor even necessarily the most important one. Environment, opponent awareness and your own resourcefulness are going to have huge, and often decisive effects on any super-powered brawl.

Which is why I must respectfully disagree with G-Man's answer in the article linked above. Super-intellect, which is his choice for best power, does not necessarily cover sound tactical and strategic thinking. It covers science smarts, amassed knowledge, and ability to apply those things in a practical way to aid in a fight. Is it useful? Very definitely, but it certainly does not guarantee that whoever has it will always be a smart fighter. I would posit that what G-Man actually means to be a power is actually a learnable skill, one that many people with lower IQs than Reed Richards or Hank Pym have learned and used against them in combat.

Captain America has this skill. Emma Frost has this skill. Hell, we've recently seen Spider-Man take this skill and use it in conjunction with his own high intellect to whip up armor, tech, and gadgets to combat the Sinister Six, but he also regularly applies it in combat as well.

I think this particular skill--we'll call it tactical cognition--is something that is learnable by all super-powered individuals, usually through direct combat experience. Furthermore, it is something that is virtually indispensable to a hero's continued survival. This is a skill that is needed by all superheroes no matter what other powers and abilities they have, though to what degree they would need it would often depend on their role in a given situation. I definitely don't consider it the same as super-intellect.

Hmm. I've started out asking one question, and seem to have veered into a multi-part answer. Next time I address this, I'll set some ground rules for selecting a power. For now, just keep in mind that the powers themselves aren't the only part of the equation, and not even necessarily the most important factor. Smarts, environment, resourcefulness, and probably a lot of other factors I've failed to mention can influence or even decide a battle.

It isn't just about what powers you're packin', True Believers. That point, to me, is probably the most important part of the answer to this question.

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Game Review -- X-Men Legends / Activision

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

Back in 2004, when the Playstation 2 and the X-Box were slugging it out for dominance in the console gaming market, Activision put out one of the most epic comic book games of its time. It was an action-RPG, featuring Marvel's X-Men characters, who were enjoying a massive upswing in popularity due to the success of two feature films. It ended up being a milestone, not just for the acclaim brought about by its own performance, but also because it was the start of a legacy, becoming the template for 3 sequel games.

I am, of course, referring to X-Men Legends.

Admittedly, it ended up being a few months before I got around to playing X-Men Legends. The basic plot centers around the emergence of teenager Alison Crestmere as a mutant, one with the power to control and manipulate molten earth. Fittingly, she eventually takes the codename Magma, but before she does, she become the target of an attempted kidnapping by Mystique and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The X-Men arrive on the scene and manage to stop them from taking her, and bring her back to the mansion to offer her a place at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. As the X-Men try to figure out what Magneto wants with her, they engage in a series of adventures against a multitude of some of their most dangerous adversaries.

The action-RPG style of X-Men Legends combines the best of freestyle button-mashing, combos, and basic hack-and-slash fighting with the kind of layered, engaging character advancement you get from the best role-playing games. At the heart of it all, you have a wide-ranging, dynamic story featuring an enormous cast of playable X-Men, their most memorable allies and enemies, and a plot that, while not the most complex in the world, leaves plenty of room for a sequel to follow--which, it totally did. While you experience a lot of story through Magma's eyes and character, there is plenty of development that occurs among the main X-Men characters, including a few very nice flashback scenes that recall old comic book stories and show some of the retro looks the characters sported in earlier years.

There's also a high level of versatility incorporated into the game world and mechanics behind utilizing your characters. Some puzzles can be solved in multiple ways, through use of force, thought, or clever use of mutant abilities. A wide range of powers and abilities, both passive and active, are available to every character as they level up, and they're managed through a clever and intuitive scheme of button combinations that make good use of controller layout. There are also combination moves that grant extra experience and damage, when you manage to combine one mutant ability with another against a foe in battle.

Leveling up your character is also an engaging process, with more than just their raw powers up for improvement. With the utilization of gear and ability points, you can also upgrade their basic combat characteristics as well. That means you can make them more resistant to damage with armor, increase their defense, attack, stamina, and HP stats with ability points, and upgrade their powers and abilities, often all in one go. This is the game that came before you got the option of alternate costume skins for your character, so that element is missing, but gets addressed and taken care of in the sequel, Rise of Apocalypse.

In the area of play control, there's plenty to praise and a little to gripe about. Overall, it's very intuitive, with directional, attack, and other mechanical necessities rendered smoothly. I do have issues with how the camera will occasionally zip to a highly inconvenient angle, but this occurs fairly infrequently, and can usually be corrected with a quick moment on the directional stick. By and large, the game handles extremely well.

The graphics are also awesome, with plenty of faithfully rendered cel shade animation for the characters, and believably destructible environments. It's not the most advanced graphics work, but again, this was the first of its kind, and subsequent titles update based on the classic look of this game. The voice work is stellar, with the most notable bit of casting going to Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, reprising his role from the hit movies.

Overall, this is a great game, and a wonderful beginning to the franchise that spawned X-Men Legends II: The Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, all good-to-excellent games in and of themselves. It combines an engaging story with good graphics, dynamic action, excellent voice work, and a feel to the X-Men universe that is very genuine and well done. Highly recommended.

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Best Methods of Reading and Collecting Digital Comics?

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

As a potentially serious digital comics reader, I know there are a range of issues that will affect how I access, purchase, and enjoy any digital comics I read. The approach I intend to take towards digital comics, therefore, should involve a good deal of consideration, research, and soul-searching before I just charge into the fray. I'm going to lay out my current digital reading habits, a few of the issues I see ahead of me, my intended approach to collecting digital comics, and what currently appear to be the best options for me with that in mind.

My current digital reading habits mainly involve two pieces of hardware: my desktop computer and my smartphone, an Android-based HTC Vivid. On the desktop, I mostly just read free samples from marvel.com, on what I assume is their Digital Comics Unlimited interface. From my Android phone, I have the following apps through which I read comics: Comixology, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Dark Horse.

Again, I mostly read free samples through these apps (having sampled Justice League, Hellboy, and several Spider-Man titles), though I did redeem my digital copy of Avengers vs. X-Men #1 through my phone and read that through the Marvel app, and found the reading experience to be decent. So, while my overall experience with reading digital comics is at the shallow end of the pool, I'm finding Marvel's method of luring readers with a free digital copy to be both enjoyable and deepening in terms of exposure to the medium.

There are a wide range of issues that have thus far prevented me from investing in a dedicated hardware interface for digital comics. By far the biggest annoyance is the ebook reader wars between the Amazon Kindle readers and the Barnes and Noble NOOK. Basically, the Kindle has an exclusive deal with DC Comics, where DC graphic novels are only available on the Kindle. The NOOK, conversely, has offered a similar deal with Marvel comics. So, by and large, if you want access to both publishers' content, going with either of these options is not feasible. Finding comic apps on the NOOK at least, is a terribly frustrating endeavor, so that's definitely not a possibility for me at this point.

I'd strongly considered investing in one of these two technologies up until I heard about this. I would basically just use an e-reader to read comics.

So, versatility and variety are top factors in my approach to collecting and reading digital. While I don't have a problem downloading individual issues, the option of downloading a trade collecting several issues at once is also desirable. The problem is, I'm not sure there's a way to do that, with the DC & Kindle/Marvel & NOOK war going on. Hopefully that'll be resolved in the near future, but I know better than to hold my breath for such things.

At this point, I'm reluctantly forced to conclude that perhaps the iPad is the best way to go, if I want to read on a bigger screen. It has the most versatility, and from what I can see, the most likelihood of breaking the wall of the e-reader war in the future. Not only can it act as an e-reader (among other things), but it doesn't seem to have the problems finding and downloading apps that I've seen on the NOOK and read plenty about with regard to the Kindle (even the Fire). So, reading single issue comics shouldn't be a problem at all. Whether it can grab trades is something I'm not sure about. My guess would be no, given that Marvel and DC should currently be available exclusively to NOOK and Kindle, respectively.

I have to admit though, I do have high hopes Google/Android will make a comparable product to the iPad. I love my Android phone, which I ditched the iPhone for, and it does provide an excellent current medium for digital comics. It will likely be my preferred reading method, since it has all the capabilities I've seen on an iPad with regard to digital comics and AR functionality.

I would be curious to know how others get their comics digitally, what their favorite programs and apps are, and how they approach collecting in this arena. Any new information or perspectives are welcome about this, as this is an area of comic books where my perspective is constantly evolving.

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GN Review -- Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity / Dave Roman

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

Also posted here because no record exists for this title on the ComicVine wiki.

So, I think I just read my first children's comic that I just wasn't very crazy about. It's a shame, too, because it's a work by an artist I've met and admire personally. Dave Roman has had a hand in quite a few comics I've enjoyed, but one of his more recent works, the first installment of the Astronaut Academy series, Zero Gravity, just didn't work very well for me.

There really isn't a main plot to Zero Gravity so much is there are a multitude of episodic, interconnected vignettes featuring the various characters, the sum of which forms a kind of composite of a plot. You have a boy, Hakata Soy, who's come to Astronaut Academy in an attempt to put his super-hero past behind him, but who has his own adjustment issues, including a robotic duplicate trying to kill him. You have the various veteran students, including, among others, Hakata's jock roommate who's secretly a sentimental sap, two girls who were once friends, but are now enemies, and a boy who simply likes to float out in space in his spacesuit. Together along with the other students' tales, a year at Astronaut Academy is chronicled, through madcap classes headed by insane teachers, contests and grudge matches between students, and an incident with the school's gravity system and Hakata's robot assassin, Cybert, finally trying to get the drop on him.

I hate to begin a review on a sour note, but this was one title that I put down and picked up several times before I finally found the strength to muscle through it. I had serious issues with the jokes, which fly out ad nauseum and are clearly not intended for my age range. Much of the language ends up being repetitious or unnecessarily lengthy, which I believe intended as a poke at manga and anime conventions, but it quickly wears thin, and was one major factor in my initial distaste for the book. Again, I imagine much of the visual and dialog humor works well for a children's work, but it simply didn't translate into an enjoyable experience for me.

Still, as I pressed on, I did occasionally find myself surprised by how involved I could get in some of these kids' perspectives and problems. One boy sees Hakata immediately as a lost soul, and identifies with him due to his own hard experiences. Doug Hiro, the boy who would prefer to float out in the silent endlessness of space, harbors a secret passion for a lady who works in the principal's office. And Marion Mellonbelly, who was once friends with but now dislikes Miyumi San, shows surprising depth of character when she recalls how Miyumi San fell away from her circle of friends.

Art-wise, I can see how this work would appeal to children. The tone is light and cheerful, and the simple line work and pleasing expressiveness of the characters will easily grab the attention of young readers. For my part, it's not terribly impressive, but again, this story is clearly not aimed at audiences like me. While I doubt its ability to transcend its intended demographic, Roman nonetheless puts together a work that will visually captivate its intended audience.

Overall, I would recommend this work for kids. The art, the story, and the humor clearly lend themselves to a younger audience. I doubt many adults readers will care for this work, and again, I had to put this work down several times before finally pushing through to the end with it. Recommended, with some reservations.

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Status Report for April: Still Goin'

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

If anyone out there follows this blog with any regularity, you probably know I've set quite a few micro-goals for the upcoming weeks, months, and year. They're all either comic book- or writing-related, and designed to get me to either improve my chances of eventually publishing something or to help bring out my inner fanboy a little more prominently (in some cases, they're both). Since I've had a little bit of time to work on each one, I thought I'd give a quick update on each of them.

Cons and Panels

I put my meager event organization skills to the test last month and had a Houston Comics Talent Panel at the Central Library downtown. As far as having barely a week's promotion time, it was pretty well attended. I moderated, despite fighting back a vicious case of my voice trying to give out on me. We had four talented individuals in the comics field speak on the panel: Nick Pitarra (The Manhattan Projects), Scott Chitwood of Red 5 Comics, independent creator Mark Nasso (Land of the Rats), and Edward Kraatz, Jr., from Shark Industries Studios. Those who were able to attend had a great time, as did our panelists!

I've purchased a three-day pass for Comicpalooza this year at the George R. Brown during Memorial Day Weekend in May. I also plan to be there in a (semi-) professional capacity, since Houston Public Library will have a booth there to promote its graphic novels collection and support graphic novels as literacy, and I'll be working it for at least part of the convention. We're also scheduling a panel presentation in support of comics in libraries, and I'm scheduled to be a part of that panel as well.

While I realize Comicpalooza doesn't technically count towards my resolution to attend a convention outside my current hometown of Houston, you have to admit, it'd be kind of shameful not to attend the con that's in your own backyard. I'm still planning to aim for Wizard World Austin this year, which is many months off, and I'm looking at Comicpalooza as a kind of spiritual prep for that particular journey.

And, since it's less than a week away, I wanted to mention that I'm one of the organizers for Teen Book Con, which will be happening on Saturday, April 14, at Alief Taylor High School. This is the third year for Teen Book Con, and it's only gotten bigger and better each year. I'll be moderating the graphic novelists panels, as I've done from the outset! Our graphic novelist guests this year are Nick Pitarra (The Manhattan Projects, Astonishing Tales, The Red Wing), Lea Hernandez, Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins (Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer).

Costumes

I've made some progress since my last post about costumes, but I'd be lying if I said it's been very much. It's also at a point where I'm getting uncertain how to proceed. See below:

I've finished taping up two dowel rods to create a pair of black escrima sticks for the Nightwing costume. I've also got the black boots and black tights, the latter of which could also work for the black-suited Spider-Man costume I'm also trying for. From this point on, though, there's no real sharing in terms of whatever I acquire for the costume, since they're so different from the waist up.

For Nightwing, I still need to acquire or work on a face mask, gloves, and a top shirt. For Spidey, I'll need those same things, though in different incarnations. And at present, something's stopping me from taking the next step. I'm sure it has a large part to do with my lack of knowledge when it comes to costuming and cosplay; putting this stuff together from scratch is more than a little taxing for my novice brain. I don't want to simply buy a shirt with the symbols on them, but in terms of actually putting it together, I'm in need of knowledge or expertise from someone who could suggest a more DIY alternative to buying a costume, or the disparate parts.

One example: I'll be searching for something spandex-y for both hero tops. Is it possible to silkscreen on black spandex a white spider or a blue hawk? Will it last? Will I need to buy material for these symbols and have them sewn on? What's the most logical step for this phase of the costume? Any cosplayers or costumers who can help me with this one, please volunteer your expertise. I want to look as complete as possible when I go to cons. :)

Writing

Finally, there's the writing aspect. Those of you who follow this blog can easily look and see that I've managed to write at least one post per day in this blog, since all the way back to when I started it November 30 of last year. It's something I'm very proud of, and frankly it's unprecedented for me to do so much. It's my intention to continue this streak for as long as possible, though I will confess that this month it will be a lot harder than previously.

The reason is that I've placed another writing goal on myself for this month. I've joined ScriptFrenzy, and have basically pledged to write 100 pages of scripted material between the first and last of this month. I'm making good progress so far--nearly 40 pages has been written as of today--but it's kept me from writing as much material for the blog as I would have normally done by now. Still, I'm keeping pace, and hope to maintain it for the rest of the month.

I am about a third of the way through it, after all. Any supportive comments or suggestions would always be appreciated.

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