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Nov. 20th, 2008

Have joined Facebook

Since this blog is almost defunct, I should point out that I have joined the legions on Facebook. I'm on there very frequently and you will be able to see my daily doodads to one extent or another. Feel free to request friendship and, unless you're on my very short list of people I don't like, I'll accept.

Recent events in my life include my wife and daughter cruelly abandoning me for two weeks while they vacation in Texas. It's a working vacation for my wife as she tries to get surveys and research done. I'll be flying down to join them for the holiday next week. Yay Texas!

We're entering interview season where my wife tries to sell her soul to employer after potential employer, hoping that someone will pick her up and that it'll be a place we can enjoy living.

I have learned my job may or may not be in jeopardy as ACS pursues the benefits of hiring overseas. If the rumor mill is true, the staff in my current location will be greatly reduced by February's end. But my manager (who just recently left his position after finding out about this) has told me he has spoken very highly and recommended I be one of the employees they keep on here in Cheshire, so I'm crossing my toes in hope.

And in the fun dept, I am just about finished with the first run of The X-Men. The book was cancelled in 1970 after 66 issues and sat dead for five years before being revived with a new creative team and new characters in 1975. As hot an item as the X-Men have become, it's hard to believe they were once at the bottom of Marvel's barrel. But having read 65 of those 66 issues I can confidently point out that more than a few of them were hard to get through. Don't get me wrong. The concepts were there, the characters were solid. But after Jack Kirby quit the art in issue 15 and Stan Lee quit writing around issue 17, the book kept floating from writer to writer and artist to artist, and many of these people just didn't have successful ideas for the team. And when 1/3 to 1/2 of your stories are less than stellar, readership is going to slack off, and it did. So they cancelled The X-Men completely for several months before bringing it back as a bimonthly book that reprinted the older stories. The characters would occasionally appear in other heroes' books as guest-stars during this interim, and I guess fan interest was there because the team was eventually revamped and reborn in 1975 with Giant-Size X-Men 1 and then new stories recommenced in issue 94 of The X-Men. So that's where I am with the X-Men.

And for anyone who's interested, do a Google search for Chronological Spider-Man. You'll see some sharing by ChronoSpidey. This is the first pack of who knows how many to come...

Oct. 11th, 2008

Spider-Man of the 1960s

I plan to a post this week regarding some of the TV that's been on lately, but for now I want to talk comics.

When I was a boy, I had three paperback books of Spider-Man that collected his first 20 issues from 1963 and 1964. And then I started buying Spider-Man comics in 1990, and I had to get used to all the changes that had happened in his universe. That comic collecting lasted about two years before it tapered off. And now, since Iron Man's release in theaters, I am back in comics.

Due to DVD-ROM collections and the magic of bit torrent, I have been able to re-begin my journey through the saga of the amazing Spider-Man from the beginning. Lifelong dream coming true right now. And it's been great.

Tonight, I finished the December 1969 issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I have now read every issue of Spider-Man from the 1960s. I can't describe how much I'm enjoying this.

You've seen the movie. Amazing Spider-Man is, of course, the tale of Peter Parker, a high school teen who is endowed with spider powers through the bite of a spider that has mistakenly been caught up in a radioactivity experiment. He joins a wrestling gig and begins to cash in through show business. Getting a bit of a swelled ego, he decides *not* to step in as a crook runs by, being chased by a cop. Blowing off the angry policeman, he soon regrets his nonaction when the same crook shoots and kills his uncle, leaving Peter alone with his elderly aunt. (His parents had died when he was very young.) Realizing that his great power obligates him to a great responsibility, he turns from showbiz wrestler to night-time crime-fighter. And so the saga begins.

Spider-Man was one of Marvel's first heroes since their World War II hits like Captain America and Sub-Mariner had fizzled alongside the war fervor in the late 40s; and he was their second superhero concept to be given his own magazine. In a day when most comic superheroes were cardboard cutouts and non-superhero comics were horror and sci-fix anthologies, Marvel's presentation of super-powered people with true-to-life personalities and hang-ups helped to revolutionize the industry and give it some much-needed life in the early and mid-60s. (Ten to 15 years later, this will have fizzled again, but for now Marvel was riding a surfboard on a very high wave.)

Spider-Man appealed to readers of all ages. Unlike other heroes, Spider-Man didn't have to put on glasses and pretend to be a loser. He wore glasses and really was a loser. He couldn't get a girl at school and so he started pursuing a high-school dropout who worked in the same place where he had a part-time job, and that only worked because she was a needy girl who flamed in jealousy every time she saw some other girl even look Peter's way. Fortunately, most losers eventually grow out of it (or at least that's what I keep telling myself) and Peter eventually found himself in college dating a rather lovely blond, whose father was an ex- police captain and had a great respect for Spider-Man, and sharing an expense-paid apartment with the son of one of the wealthiest businessmen of New York City.

In this era, you have three main creative teams. Stan Lee is the writer throughout. The three chief artists are Steve Ditko, John Romita, and Jim Mooney, successively.

Lee had been writing comics since shortly after Captain America hit the scene in 1942. He and other artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby worked to bring back the superhero for a new generation in the early 1960s. Jack Kirby took the pencil for their initial hit The Fantastic Four, and Steve Ditko drew the less superstar-oriented Spider-Man. He designed a slim, not-so-muscular figure who could be believed to be a high-school kid in tights. When Ditko took the mask off, his Peter Parker was not too attractive, even somewhat naifish, and went to school dressed in the necktie and vest or suit of the far-from-hip.

Ditko and Stan had a falling out for some reason that is still debated. Some say it was a disagreement over the creative direction of the book, specifically the identity of Spider-Man's chief villain, the Green Goblin. Other say this can be discounted, and the true reason is between Stan and Steve. In any case, after three years on the book, Ditko was replaced by John Romita. In retrospect, where Steve is known for his action drawing, John is known for his women. Romita took Peter Parker, now in college, and finally worked him toward getting laid. At least that's what I like to think. In any case, he introduced readers to new glamor girl Mary Jane Watson and prettied up Ditko's Gwen Stacy creation, giving Peter a love triangle that finally seemed to be drifting towards Gwen. He hipped Peter up a bit in other ways, taking him out of his aunt's house and putting him in a pad with college buddy Harry Osborn, even giving him a motorcycle to cruise around town with. (Modern Spider-Man has made the joke that he still doesn't have a drivers' license. After all, when you learn to swing on webs at 15...) This went so far as to cause fans to write letters complaining that the Problem Peter Parker of old had been replaced by an unrecognizable Swinger Pete.

After a couple of years, Romita seemed to take more of an overseer role with the art. Marvel tried to do a second Spider-Man title that would be magazine-sized and would be sold with regular magazines rather than comics. So Romita's duties were stuck between the regular monthly title, and this new higher-priced quarterly. So Romita started being given credit as Layouts or Innovator, rather than Penciller or Artist. And in the last year or so, Jim Mooney began to pencil the ideas given him by Lee and Romita (with Romita sometimes being substituted with John Buscema).

Jim Mooney increased the darkness of the Spider-Man title. I don't mean this as post-modern psychological darkness, although a little of that may have been a side-result. But actual darkness in the art. Increased shading. More grunge to the backgrounds. Increasing the mystery-feel of the mag. In addition to fighting super-villains, Spider-Man has always been a mystery crime-fighter as well. It was also during this time that the stories began to incorporate non-white characters more, increasing the modern and relevant feel of the stories. Mooney also began to cement the ties between Peter Parker and his beautiful blonde Gwen Stacy. Mary Jane was a thing of the past, supposedly dating roommate Harry Osborn, but she was rarely seen in the mag anymore, if at all.

With villains like the Vulture, Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, and the Rhino, Spider-Man seems to attract animal-themed villains. Recently, I understand, they even did an arc exploring that very concept, but that was before my return. I hope to read it some day. But possibly his greatest villain during this era, possibly during all eras, was the Green Goblin. Beginning as a cooky character who sought to take over the mob rackets of New York City, the Green Goblin quickly rose to be a fan favorite, partly because his origins and identity were kept in secret, unlike virtually all other villains in the series. Romita's first story, after taking over the reins from Ditko, was to tell the story of how the Green Goblin becomes the first person ever to unmask Spider-Man (that is, without it being immediately explained away by extenuating circumstances, which had happened once or twice before). This was immediately followed by his removing his own mask, revealing himself to be the father of Peter's friend from college, and later roommate, Harry Osborn. This mutual unmasking appointed the Green Goblin as Spider-Man's first psychological enemy, whose threat was beyond the mere physical.

Other great villains from this time include Doctor Octopus, a man whose mechanical arms created for dealing with radioactive experiments behind a lead shield were fused to his body by such an experiment going sour; the Lizard, a one-armed scientist who sought to use reptilian biochemistry to regenerate his missing limb, only to cause his entire body to mutate into a man-sized reptile; and the Kingpin, who would later come to be one of Daredevil's main menaces, but who now threatened Spider-Man by being both a physical threat in his own right and a master-planner behind many criminal schemes which Spider-Man was obligated to thwart.

Overall, this was some solid storytelling. Yes, there were some lulus. The Looter and the Ringmaster come to mind. And others like the Vulture and Mysterio were used both well and badly. But I think I may be descending from here, as I move into the 70s. Later editor-in-chief Jim Shooter has gone on record saying that Marvel's contract to adapt the new science fiction movie Star Wars, and their continuation of that series, saved the company from going under in 1977, so I'm afraid of where Spider-Man will be at that time. I know there's a Spider-Mobile somewhere in there, and that causes me to shudder a bit. But here's to the journey.

Oct. 2nd, 2008

Checking in, maybe starting again

Hello, blog. Hello, blog readers. I know I haven't said anything on here for a while. Basically, I've been at a loss to think of interesting things to say.

Life is good. Baby is coming, for those who don't know. We're still waiting on the penis determination, but we've decided names for both sum and sans penis eventualities.

Wife is working very hard at her schooling and her job, despite her body's valiant attempts to turn her into a lazy miserable bum. I applaud her efforts while I worry about her being able to complete everything she needs to do.

Daughter has become just an amazing reader. It's fun being with her and realizing that this whole world of words has opened up all around her. She's reading signage on the road and all sorts of random crap. Why? Because she can. Because six months ago, she couldn't. But now she can. And now that she has crossed the subjective line we call "being able to read for enjoyment", she has plunged into chapter books. Her current title is "All About Bats", which is funny because the child literally would not admit to the existence of bats until about a year ago. Didn't believe in them. Or deserts. Didn't think they were real. Crazy child. Love her to the depths of my soul.

This blog started when I was going through some major philosophy changes. And I initially envisioned this as a place to discourse on a lot of that. Hence the title. But it quickly descended into a forum for my geekiness. Sorry for all those family members who read this looking for emotional insight into my life. I'm really just a big dork whose most interesting life events happen on the screen or the printed page, involving people who don't exist.

On that note, I am enjoying the current season of my shows. Terminator continues to excel. (Is that one L or two? Microsoft has destroyed my ability to spell.) Fringe is a little on the fence, but I'm continuing to give it some rope. Smallville probably needs to end, but I find myself secretly enjoying it. Shhh....don't tell anyone. I have the impression that enjoying Smallville is not cool.

But what really gets my TV week happy is Heroes. Love that show. It's superheroes. On TV. And they're cool. Not to mention that almost every single person on that show is sexy. Guys, dolls, love them all. But especially everyone's favorite cheerleader, Miss Hayden Panettiere.

The reading front has been pretty silent, as far as actual books go. I'm in the middle of two books. Only two. And it wouldn't have even been two except I didn't want to take a big hardback on the recent flight to Texas. So I'm reading The Host by Stephanie Meyer, and I recently started Kobayashi Maru by Mangels & Martin.

But I'm not reading 'actual books' much anymore. I'm still in my comic book frenzy.

If you don't want to read about comic books, proceed to the next blog in your RSS feed.

Wow, there's some stuff going on in comics these days. Shape-shifting Skrulls have invaded the Marvel universe. Spider-Man made a deal with the devil to save his aunt's life, costing him his marriage, but erasing the knowledge of his secret identity from the minds of the world. The Avengers have demolished and reformed. Spider-Woman was brought back from obscurity to the forefront of the Marvel world, only to be revealed as the queen Skrull. Daredevil's gotten married. 98% of the world's mutants have lost their powers, many dying in the process.

It's just crazy.

And at the same time that I'm reading current stuff, I'm also reading older stuff. My current mission is to read every Spider-Man book from his intro in 1962 to now. So far, I'm in 1968 and still going strong. But we'll see if I can make it through the strangeness of the 70s or when he explodes in the 90s.

Really, it's all Iron Man's fault. If the movie hadn't turned me on to comics, we wouldn't be here right now.

I think comics may become a frequent topic here. They're what I'm excited about right now, and I don't have many venues to geek out about it.

That's all for now. Laterz.

Jun. 11th, 2008

Comic addiction

So...after Iron Man came out, I thought it would be cool to read his mag from the beginning. With comics as downloadable as they are these days, I figured it'd be easy to get a hold of them. And with so many online resources, I figured I could even track down his appearances in other comics and read those.

Well, in comics, when an event is referenced which happened in a previous issue, or in another series, there is usually a footnote that mentions the issue referenced. I like to get these to feel like I'm getting "the whole story".

Well, so many comics are on DVD-ROMs now that I found I was able to catch most of the major series collected in their entirety on DVD-ROM. Which means that I would have easy access to many of the referenced issues and wouldn't have to download as much.

But then as I was reading these, I realized how much I loved these other characters and how much I'd always wanted to read their series as well. People like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men.....and especially, my all-time favorite -- The Amazing Spider-Man.

And so, I'm currently reading a lot of comics. I've started in 1961, with the very first issue of Fantastic Four, and I'm working through several series chronologically, in parallel.

They are:
The Fantastic Four
The Amazing Spider-Man
Iron Man
The Avengers
Captain America
The Incredible Hulk
The X-Men

The joy is that, after the initial purchase of the DVD-ROM collection for most of these guys, and subsequent download of any referenced issues I don't already have, I'm riding on free reading for the foreseeable future, and having a blast doing it.

The flip side is that I haven't picked up a non-illustrated book in over a month now. It's been long enough that people have teased me about how most books don't have pictures. I guess they forget that I'd already finished over 50 titles before May, and that's more than most people read in a whole year. Or several years. But that's ok.

I have another thing to say about Spider-Man, but that's for another day. Suffice to say, that if you're a Spider-Fan, and you're curious about what's going on in his universe, prepare for a gobsmacking surprise.

May. 15th, 2008

Burnt out on reading?????!!!!!!111

So, yeah, all the books I was in the middle of two Thursdays ago... I'm pretty much in the exact same place in all of them. I haven't really felt like reading an actual novel. I have tried to pick one up, but it just seemed tedious.

This is a very weird state of affairs for yours truly. I have *always* been a reader. I remember reading Dr. Seuss' ABC when I was three years old at the Sugarland daycare center in Denton, TX.

Camel on the ceiling...c...c...c...

But now it just feels annoying.

On the other hand, my interest in comic books has been resurged by the new Iron Man movie, which by the way, kicks all kind of @$$. I got two DVD-ROMs, one with the entire Iron Man run, and one with the Avengers run, from 1963 to 2005 or 2006. And I've been enjoying reading those.

And with download land being like it is, when Iron Man appears in another title, or one of his books refers to events in another title that I want to read about, I can download those books as well. So I've been reading lots of 60s comics, and that's been really fun. The thing about 60s comics is you can never have too many adjectives or superlatives.

Coupled with that, I've been reading Marvel's various "Ultimate" titles because they are uber cool.

And a friend of mine has electronic copies of all the Books of Magic series and spinoffs. This series was begun by Neil Gaiman, whose Sandman series from the 90s stands tall and proud as Best Comic Series Ever.

So yay comics. Lots of comics. But no books, not so much. Which makes me wonder what I'm going to read when the wife and I train down to New York this weekend, as they're all in electronic form. Best Friend wants me to read Mistborn, so I may have to delve into that.

May. 7th, 2008

Art media

Some people work in oils, some in watercolors, some in mixed media.

And some people work in pure awesome --

May. 2nd, 2008

Iron Man (and 54, 55)

The trailers for Iron Man promised a lot of action and sarcastic humor, and I'm pleased to see the movie delivered delightfully on both counts. No spoilers, but the nanotech effects with the suit were amazing. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts was adorable, and the post-credits zinger scene raised the awesomeness of the whole movie to another level.

Loved it!

I want to say more, but I don't want to spoil it for everyone going to see it tonight or soon.

Also recently finished two Star Trek: New Frontier novels -- #7: The Quiet Place and #8: Dark Allies. Still enjoying the series, although the next trilogy to come is where I've heard many say they lost faith in it. Also, if you're going to end your duology with "and all this happened five minutes before everyone blew up", that's just mean.

Apr. 24th, 2008

Myriad Universes

Two of my favorite sci-fi concepts, and my wife's least favorite, are time travel and parallel universes. Infinite storytelling possibilites abound that take your favorite characters outside the box of their universe and see how they act in different situations.

And so, one of my favorite Trek episodes is "Parallels" from The Next Generation, which has Worf spontaneously hopping form universe to universe, and you see his life circumstances changing around him. In some he is married to Deanna Troi, in some Picard died during the Borg incident and Riker is in command, etc.

Well, this year there will be Pocket Books is releasing a project that I imagine will be right up my alley. In two volumes, under the banner Myriad Universe, will be six novellas that each takes a separate What If...? from the Trek universe as the basis for its tale. And the details of each novel were just released.


by William Leisner: More than a hundred years after the Terra Prime movement achieved its dream of an isolationist Earth, humanity is once again at a fork in the river of history . . . and the path it follows may ultimately be determined by the voice of a single individual: the sole surviving crewmember of the first Starship Enterprise.

PLACES OF EXILE by Christopher L. Bennett: Midway through Voyager's journey across the galaxy, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Commander Chakotay must choose whether to brave a deadly war zone or abandon their quest for home. But an attack by Species 8472 cripples the ship, and the stranded crew must make new choices that will reshape their destinies . . . and that of the Delta Quadrant itself.

SEEDS OF DISSENT by James Swallow: Khan victorious! Almost four centuries after conquering their world, genetically enhanced humans dominate a ruthless interstellar empire. But the warship Defiance, under its augmented commander, Princeps Julian Bashir, makes a discovery that could shake the pillars of his proud civilization: an ancient sleeper ship from Earth named the Botany Bay.


by Geoff Trowbridge: In a continuum where Spock died during childhood, an Andorian named Thelin became Captain Kirk's stalwart friend and first officer. But at the moment of Khan's final defeat, history takes an even stranger turn, and the emerging potential of Project Genesis is revealed as the galaxy's greatest hope . . . and its most ominous threat.

A GUTTED WORLD by Keith R. A. DeCandido: Terrorist Kira Nerys-from a Bajor that was never liberated-may hold the key to winning a war that has engulfed half the galaxy. But with the Romulans and the Klingons at each other's throats, and the Federation pulled into the conflict, even victory may not bring salvation.

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Chris Roberson: Dr. Noonien Soong's dream has been realized: androids are now woven inextricably into the fabric of the Federation, revolutionizing Starfleet and transforming the quality of humanoid life. But when Soong's long-missing breakthrough creation, Data, mysteriously resurfaces, civilization reaches a crossroads that could lead to a bright new future, or to ruin.

Yay Star Trek books!

Apr. 23rd, 2008

53 Equinox

Finished reading Star Trek: Voyager -- Equinox by Diane Carey, an adaptation of the two-part Voyager episode that finished out the show's fifth season and started its sixth.

A darker story, with Janeway making some questionable choices. It's kinda odd. Most of the time Janeway is just like any other captain, amiable at most times and stern when she needs to be. But every now and then, they do an episode that puts her in a very hard place, and she will often make decisions that her crew (and the viewers) have problems with. To me, it comes off a little unevenly, though.

But I guess they're trying to make the point that Janeway can be a hardass when she knows she's right, and to hell with everyone else.

The novelization didn't add much to the episode, aside from some extra dialogue between Janeway and Chakotay as they hash out the moralities of their situation.

This also marks the beginning of the first Star Trek season in seven years that didn't have two shows running together. Two more seasons of Voyager, and four seasons of Enterprise, and I'll be all caught up, show-wise. And with the number and frequency of Trek books decreasing, it shouldn't take too much longer after that to catch up on the book side. Maybe...five years, total? Six, maybe? :-)

Apr. 22nd, 2008

52 Rabbit Hole; and people dying

Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire is the play that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007. It had finished it's run long before I decided I wanted to see it, and I thought I'd be stuck with that void in my Pulitzer reading, but lo and behold, the script has been published and is available on amazon.com, so I got it and read it.

Reading through the reviews on the site, it appears that there were mixed reviews. Some called it deep and insightful and others called it melodramatic hooey, and there wasn't a whole lot in between, so I wasn't sure what I was in for.

Having read it now, I wonder if those who didn't like it have experienced the death of a close loved one. I know that many of you who read my blog either have experienced this or are closely involved with someone who has. This story is about a family and their efforts to cope with a somewhat-recent death of their young son.

The story is very much a "day in the life" kind of tale with little resolution at the end. Because that's how life is. When you lose someone, there is nothing that can be done to tidy up all your emotions at the end. Even now, 11 years after three members of my family were shot, I still have this little box inside that will always be there. At one time, it was burst open and blazing with rage and grief. Now it just sits there quietly, and every now and then, I take it out and open it, and I remember everything almost with a sense of "Oh, yeah...that." ...and then I put it back. The feelings don't go away, they just change somewhat, and you integrate them into the rest of you.

And I think this play illustrates all that complexity very well. My sister was 4 years and 56 days old when she was killed. And I remember the day that L reached that age and passed it. I used to fear that I'd lose her too, although that isn't a common thought anymore. She loves me so much, more than I know what to do with, and I'd be devastated if I lost her.

But, eventually, I would have to move on. And the family in the story is still learning how to do that, some ten months after their son was hit by a car.

Overall, I'm very glad I read it. It helped me to see my own situation through the eyes of others' grief, and I recommend it to others.

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