Archives for the month of: November, 2014

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Last night I convinced a friend of mine to join me in attending the second monthly installment of the Back Bar Comedy Showcase at Manuel’s Tavern. Before the event, we made a bet on whether or not one of the comedians would tell a Bill Cosby joke. My friend bet that there would one told and I took the other side. I won.

I missed the inaugural event which took place the evening of the Little Five Points Halloween Parade. The host is a friend named Jody Bufkin who I volunteered with for several months at WonderRoot. Before last night, I hadn’t caught any of his comedy performances and as anyone who has ever befriended a comedian will tell you- you can’t wait to see them perform and you sort of expect them to bad at it (it’s like finding out one of your friends makes porno). I was happy to finally get a chance to see him do comedy and relieved that he was good at comedy. The good news that Jody is not bad at stand up comedy was followed by the better news that he’d recruited many hilarious comedians to perform in the showcase. Although billed as an hour and a half, the thing ran close to two hours and nearly every minute had me laughing. I’m a terrible journalist as I don’t remember anyone’s name (except Jody, of course), but if I did remember their names, I’d go into detail about what I particularly liked. Instead, the bad journalist in me will tell you that I thought the first comedian was the funniest. She was pretty tall and from Nebraska. Her jokes, like most of the jokes, were quite dirty- filthy actually. Not so much family-friendly entertainment, but certainly funny and the price is right. This monthly jokefest happens for free. I can also report that Jody is a good host. He seemed to pronounce everybody’s name correctly and many of the performers hugged him before taking the stage.

I strongly encourage any of you available on December 20th to check out the next one. It’s free.

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The Jackie Ormes Comic Book Memorial Library is now open to the public and members of WonderRoot Community Arts Center in Reynoldstown, Atlanta, Georgia. I started the project at the beginning of this year and finally installed it on Friday. The library wouldn’t be possible without some generous donations, particularly from Oni Press and Valiant Comics. You can see that Oni donated some great runs- look at all those volumes of The Sixth Gun! Obviously the library could offer a more substantial selection and I encourage y’all to donate to this venture- if you don’t know what to donate, shoot me an email at waynexiaolong@gmail.com and I’d happily provide suggestions- you could tell me a little bit about yourself and I’d recommend a donation that matched not only the library’s needs, but your spirit as well.

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I chose to dedicate the library to Jackie Ormes for a number of reasons. Her role as an activist is not limited to breaking the color barrier in the newspaper funnies. The content of her comic strips, particularly Patty Jo n Ginger, confronted all sorts of society’s hypocrisies. Her approach to social change and criticism kept a good sense of humor, but didn’t cower away from a fight- this is much the spirit of WonderRoot Community Arts Center where social change and art share equal footing in their mission. We also have the same birthday.

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In addition to an assortment of comics, the library also features two plaque that I made. One features a portrait of Jackie Ormes, pretty standard commemorative fare. The other features a collage I put together of Jackie’s comics work. The frames were provided by Creative Reuse, a fantastic WonderRoot program that resells donated art supplies at incredibly cheap prices- getting materials into the hands of folks who’ll use them.

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I was also able to secure some signatures for the books from a few creators.

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Rob Vendetti signed a copy of X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By The Sword during Free Comic Book Day at Criminal Records. I also had him sign my personal copies of both Surrogates books, The Homeland Directive (which you should read if you haven’t read it!), and the first collected trade of his work on Green Lantern, which he told me was the first copy of that trade he’d signed yet which is nice for me.

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I ran into Ted Naifeh at this year’s Dragon Con and had him sign volume one of Courtney Crumrin. Oni Press actually donated volumes one through four, but I didn’t feel like carrying around four hard cover books with me at the convention in addition to the other books I brought to get signed.

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At that same Dragon Con, I ran into Andrew Aydin and he personally donated a copy of March Book One, which is created with Civil Rights icon and U.S. Congressman John Lewis and artist Nate Powell. If you haven’t read March, I strongly recommend it. Of all the books in the library, this one probably fits the snuggest with the spirit of the library.

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Again, if you’re interested in donating, please contact me. Just off the top of my head, some classics the library could use- Watchmen; Maus; Perseplois; Liberty (the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund collection); Saga; Pride of Baghdad; some Fables; Green Lantern Green Arrow (the Adams-O’Neil search for the soul of America run); Girls; Criminal; Stray Bullets; Feynman; The Manhattan Projects; The Underwater Welder; and certainly any collections of classic underground comics, Golden, Silver, Bronze, etc. Age stuff, and some manga. In the meantime, I encourage you to go check it out- grab a comic and escape to an extraordinary world.

 

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Last night the missus and I headed down to The Goat Farm to check out The Cricket Gallery‘s exhibit featuring animation art from 1990s cartoons including several Nicktoons like Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, Doug, Aaah! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Hey Arnold, but also MTV icons Beavis and Butthead as well as Aeon Flux. While the weather was chilly, the response from everyone in attendance was very warm- the crowd  ooh’d and aah’d at all these artifacts from their childhood. Not all of the cartoons made their way to China, but my wife still recognized a lot of them. She would’ve been really happy to see Daria, who she’s fallen a bit in love with since coming to the US, but the cynical Miss Morgendorffer was nowhere to be found.

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The exhibit also features some classic Disney and Warner Bros. cells and sketches.

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There was a good lot of Simpsons sketches, but they weren’t represented on the scale of the Nickelodeon stuff. In addition to the Lisa sketch below, there were sketches of several Simpsons characters. There’s a particularly charming one of Krusty the Clown that I didn’t get a picture of, so you should really go there yourself. It’s free and lasts until November 16.

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Of course, my favorite items in the exhibit feature a certain Caped Crusader and some of the rogues who really came to life in Batman: The Animated Series- Clayface, Two-Face, Joker. The exhibit was great and my only complaint is that it’s a little small considering the size of the Cricket Gallery collection and the size of the venue- also, how could you display Batman: TAS stuff and not include any Harley Quinn item?

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I’ll be the first to admit that these photos don’t do any of the pieces justice. I forgot my proper camera and just took there with my phone. You should go to the exhibit yourself anyway. Like I said, it’s free and lasts  until November 16. I hope the Cricket Gallery will share more of their collection in the future.

 

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With LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham coming out in the US in just a few days (November 11, 2014), I picked up its Bizarro version LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. As longtime readers of this blog know, I am much more a DC Comics fan than a Marvel Comics fan, which speaks more to my fondness for DC properties than for any love lost between Marvel and I. If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d probably read Marvel Comics too…and I’d probably read them while traveling the world by boat and train. However my clock and pocketbook have limits, so I’m a Marvel fan like the majority of Marvel fans- I’ve seen the movies and I watch Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD every week. I also dabble in the Marvel video games, which, like most comic book video games, are hit and miss. Captain America: Super Soldier? Hit. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer? Miss, but Silver Surfer serves a central role in the LEGO game and it works really well.

I’m a believer that certain superheroes produce better video games than others because of their powers. Because of the limitations for characters like Batman and Captain America, they make for better games than more powerful heroes with more complicated power sets like Superman and Green Lantern. Flying characters bring their own problems and their success lies in the gameplay- is it easy to control Iron Man’s suit? how fluid is Spidey’s swinging? Wolverine is a unique character because of his famous healing factor. Characters with hyper-developed mental abilities like Jean Grey and Professor X (or Maxwell Lord and Hector Hammond, if you like) also present challenges for video game platforms. How do your remotely control a metahuman brain with less than ten buttons and your meager human brain? Other characters with power sets that overwhelm almost any situation like Magneto or the Sentinels require the player to forgive a necessary weakening of the character in order to make them playable.

In the case of Magneto, LEGO lucks out as LEGOs are not magnetic, making a LEGOverse a severe handicap to Magneto. The LEGO approach to superhero gaming actually works incredibly well and not just for Magneto. Some characters suffer, but their suffering is presented in a way that 1) recognizes its limitations and 2) tries to soften it up with humor. Two particular characters come to mind. In the DC universe, we find Green Lantern being able to assemble a few green legos that no one else can assemble and while that’s a far cry from being able to create unlimited light constructs, LEGO makes reference to the classic Highball Hal Jordan’s repertoire by having him build boxing gloves and bowling balls. In the Marvel universe, Mr. Fantastic is only able to take advantage of his stretchiness when certain triggers in the game allow it. When standing on a 4 platform, he turns into situation specific shapes- something I imagine we can expect from Plastic Man in the LEGO Batman 3– and most of them are humorous. Similar he can slip through grates as long they’ve been clearly marked as passable grates.

Humor is a huge element in the LEGO games and LEGO Marvel really brings it. All of the LEGO games have the player building ridiculous things for ridiculous reasons. Because LEGO has chosen such content rich franchises as Star Wars and Harry Potter, they’ve been able to integrate into their games many in-jokes for fans of those franchises. While the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones franchises have a great deal of content to draw from, those franchises pale in comparison to either Marvel or DC in terms of source material. Even as a modest Marvel I was able to pick up on many of the game’s jokes such as Stan Lee drinking a contaminated soda a la The Incredible Hulk. Being only a Marvel novice, I’m sure I missed plenty of winks, giggles, and Easter Eggs. Several characters appear in the game that I don’t recognize and I think that’s great. I hope hardcore Marvel fans really appreciate all the little details put into the game. As a hardcore DC fan, I’m expecting a sophisticated awesomeness from LEGO Batman 3 and the pre-release hype has got me pretty excited. Some of my favorite more obscure characters have already appeared in promotional materials- Frankenstein, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing, and so many Lanterns including my two favorite Red Lanterns Bleez and Dex-Starr. You’ll also be able to play as real like folks like Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, Kevin Smith, and Adam West- maybe in the fourth installment you’ll be able to play as a real-life woman. Maybe the adorably rad Tiffany Smith from DC All Access or iconic refrigerator inspector Gail Simone.

In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, you can wear lots of Iron Man’s suits including the original, War Machine, Iron Patriot, and even Pepper Pots. Costumes from different points in the lives of the Fantastic Four, Spider-man, and certain X-Men are available. You can even choose between the Mandarin from the comics and the Mandarin from Iron Man 3. With LEGO Batman 3, the creators actually have less cinema to draw from than the Marvel folks, but they have a longer comics history, an expanding television universe, and a long string of brilliant Elseworlds tales to draw from.

In signing off, let me just mention that Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an underrated console game.  I’m bummed Arkham Knight isn’t coming to Wii U. I want to see Cheetah in Injustice 2, I’m really enjoying the Injustice comics, and I don’t understand why the Mortal Kombat series have to be in the Injustice games at all. I don’t know how I feel about having a Joker in the Suicide Squad movie, but then again, I don’t how I’d feel about a Suicide Squad movie without Harley Quinn. The whole thing just tears me apart like a string of LEGO blocks.

 

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For Halloween this year, I salvaged what I could from the Green Lantern Jack-o-lantern and the lights were the only thing to be salvaged because that pumpkin went south shortly after presentation. I’ve been out of the jack-o-lantern game for a while and did not realize the nuances of preserving a carved pumpkin. Out of the ashes and into the night like Jean Grey in a character-defining saga, those lights came to become part of my Halloween costume, a costume that I’ll admit belongs somewhere on yourcosplaysucks but it’s Halloween and Halloween is not the convention scene. I don’t think there should be too much pressure to have perfect cosplay on Halloween. I’m just happy people dress up at all. On Halloween, a shitty costume is better than being too cool for school. At a convention, I go for the too cool for school look because I’m not a cosplayer and I am too cool for school. My costume this year was an ode to the iconic cover of Superman 233 illustrated by comics legend Neal Adams.

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As you can see, the costume’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Using only materials I already had, this creative couture costs  me nothing except the juice in the battery. The t-shirt I already had and wear with some frequency. I’ll admit that I’m the type of nerd who who have also been prepared had a Flash, Batman, or Green Lantern idea come instead a Superman one. I used some scraps from the last round of printing for the issue numbering and pricing.

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