Sunday, September 30, 2012

Star Wars Video: I'm Stuck With You by Huey Lewis and the News

Check out this video my friend Bill put together! "I'm Stuck With You" by Huey Lewis and the News is used as the theme for R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Geek Gear: Cyclon Target Practice

Cyclon Centurion
Prepare for the coming of the machines with this Cyclon target! Recently these targets have started coming in a wide variety of fantasy themes from Zombies to Lizardmen so why not Cylons? After all, this was the same image used on targets in Battlestar Galactica and it has been reproduced as precisely screen-accurate!

Notice the size of the paper - that's not just a picture taken at an angle. The actual paper is the same trapezoidal shape as all of the paper from Battlestar Galactica! How cool is that?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Geek Gear: Evolution of a Cylon Poster

That last evolutionary jump was the biggest and most important one.
I don't think this one needs a whole lot of explanation. Funny and smart and for any fan of Battlestar Galactica. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Teaching Comics and Graphic Narratives (Book)

Comics Get Respected
One of the great trends in the comic book industry is seeing comic books being accepted in academic circles. Where once they were derided as trash literature that will rot your brain and turn you into a slack jawed idiot now those in education are beginning to view comics as high-interest reading materials for reluctant readers as well as a creative way to grab the attention of students in a technological age.

Thus, "Teaching Comics and Graphic Narratives" is a perfectly timed book. Sure, this book isn't for everybody. But for those that want to gain some insight into using comic books as learning tools and the educational value of comics this tome is a gem. After all, who would have ever thought that you can teach everything from reading, math, social studies, science, and evil ethical and cultural studies from comic books!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gaming Notes: DnD 5.0 Playtest #2

In our second session playtesting Dungeons and Dragons "Next" I was the Dungeon Master! As I prepared, I was really impressed with how the module was laid out. Monsters aren't static anymore - they move naturally and react to what the heroes do. I tried to warn them. I really did.

The goblin army
The party continued into the caverns and quickly dispatched three goblins before they could raise an alarm. Job well done and we were off to a good start!

The rogue scouted down the hallway, hearing the loud, loud noises of many, many goblins (as I described it several times). So, they decided to build a barricade from the table, benches, etc. in the room and post the heads of the 3 goblins on spears in the hallway. They then waited for the goblins to show up which they eventually did. When a few goblins came around the corner (not expecting anything) and saw what they party had done, they let out a war cry and charged. The three goblins were again easily defeated. I described many, many agitated goblin sounds coming from down the corridor. The party waited for them in ambush on top of the barricade they had built (not behind it, on top of it). Seeing 6 dead goblins at the party's feet, the hallway filled with goblins that started launching arrows. The party retreated with the sorcerer wisely setting the barricade on fire with burning hands (this probably saved the entire party).

The party ran outside and up the hill into a small forested area about 100 feet from the cave entrance. The rogue hung back for 20 minutes until he heard that the goblins had doused the fire and were in pursuit again. He then rejoined the party to witness the head goblin and a score of goblins emerge from the cave. The head goblin broke the goblins into small search parties to find the adventurers.

Of course, the party was eventually spotted. They quickly dispatched the first four goblins but not before they sent out a war cry alerting the others. The second group of four goblins arrived and fired arrows, awaiting reinforcements from their leader. The party killed these four but were soon forced to flee again as the goblin leader ascended the hill with 12 goblins in tow.

The party was chased out of the canyon and then most of the goblins returned home realizing that they weren't going to catch them.

After traveling for hours, the party decided to return to the canyon area. They approached on the oppose bank and set up camp 1250 feet away from the canyon, over the ridge. The rogue snuck down and observed various creatures coming and going in night raiding parties so he has a pretty good idea about which caves house which creatures.

Meanwhile, on the cleric's watch he rolled a 20 and clearly heard 3 bugbears approaching hundreds of feet away (unaware that the party was even there). They tried to hide instead of move out of the path of the bugbears but the fighter was spotted and the combat ensued. The cleric cast light so he could see, alerting other monsters to their presence (which probably saved the party, actually). Both the sorcerer and fighter went down with the fighter coming withing 2 hit points of dying. The cleric got the killing blow in when a group of approaching orcs (attracted by the light) scared off the remaining bugbear giving the cleric an "opportunity attack." The rogue returned from his recon mission and he picked up his unconscious teammates (after stabilizing the fighter) with the help of the cleric and traveled over a mile West to set up camp.

After 10 hours (it was mid-day the following day) the party was rested and fully healed. I awarded experience and everyone leveled up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Comic Shop News 25 Years Anniversary!

Comic Shop News - An essential read for comic book fans!
If you're lucky, your friendly local game store carries the free weekly comic newsletter "Comic Shop News." This great newsletter informs comic book fans of all sorts of news from major company initiatives to the death of a beloved creator. It's almost an entirely utilitarian periodical with very little fancy formatting and pictures. Each issue is only eight pages but they pack a lot into those eight pages. Recently they started carrying the Spider-Man newspaper strips (Still written by Stan Lee himself!) then they're a great addition.

Well, ol' CSN celebrated its 25th anniversary recently and 1LR wants to congratulate the folks over at CSN! They haven't missed a single weekly issue in 25 years - what comic book can say that?

If you want to check out the very first issue of CSN, you can do so by heading on over to

Monday, September 24, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class is the fifth X-Men movie and was theatrically released in 2011.
X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men movie made to date. Still, it has a few self-inflicted wounds.

The first is continuity. The director publicly stated that it was a prequel. At times it takes great pains to fit into the continuity of the original X-Men and Wolverine films. Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine for a brief but hilarious scene. Rebecca Romijn appears briefly as Mystique. We see Magneto acquire the helmet he wears in the original movies. But at other times it acts more like a reboot and flies in the face of previously established continuity. Xavier is paralyzed in 1962 when we see him walking in other films in 1979. Hank creates Cerebro when it has been previously demonstrated that Magneto and Professor X had. These moments are real head scratchers for the most ardent of fans. The shame of it is that they were ultimately avoidable.

The second self-inflected wound is character overload. The cast of mutant characters is quite large and two of the villains get turned into cardboard cutouts - Azazel and Riptide. In fact, I don't even think Riptide's name is said the entire movie. Darwin dies before we ever really get to know him as a person. We first see Havoc in prison but are never given a backstory on him (nor does he ever mention his brother, Cyclops). It's a shame because all of these characters have great potential and I hate to see them shortchanged on the screen.

But don't get me wrong - I loved First Class. Yes, it's not perfect. But what it did right it did right REALLY WELL.

Take characters, for example. The focal characters of Professor X, Magneto, and Mystque get the royal treatment. We see a young Charles Xavier befriend a young Mystique and they grow up almost like brother and sister. In his early 20's, Xavier uses his powers to woo women as he hangs out in pubs. We see Magneto as a youth suffering the consequences of his power stunt that opens the first X-Men film and is repeated here. The film is stuffed with character threads such as Mystique and Beast wrestling with their feelings about their mutations.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw makes a fantastic villain. First, he's just so evil you want to hate him. Second, he's just so cool and confident you almost think he'll succeed in his mad plan to destroy the world. In some regards, he is so similar to Magneto. You get the idea that Magneto would have gladly joined his side... if only Shaw hadn't killed his parents.

Perhaps the aspect of this movie I enjoy more than any other is the historical backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Seeing Shaw work both sides of the conflict into frothing attack dogs is mesmerizing. The climax of the film is so tense because you know that we really did come within a hair's breadth of global nuclear war in real life. Mutants don't just exist in a sanitary little mansion anymore - they are thrust into key events in history. What would be like if mutants were for real? We don't have to guess any longer.

The action in the first is top notch as well. Even familiar powers were given new presentations to make them seem fresh. Azazel is a great example of this. The sequence where he is teleporting into a CIA headquarters, grabbing a CIA agent, teleporting straight up half a mile or so and then dropping them one at a time is gruesome but fascinating. The rhythmic thumps of bodies falling illustrates how completely useless normal humans are against mutants.

Overall, First Class is first rate.

1LR REVIEW - 18 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Adventures of a Comic Book Artist" - Theater Report

The Planet X Comics table
The Comic Store West table
I attended the play Adventures of a Comic Book Artist yesterday at the York Little Theater. It is a kid friendly show so I decided to take my five year old son (he's the one dressed up as Spidey, of course!) It was my first time at the theater so I didn't know what you expect. I was quite impressed with the carnival-like atmosphere they created!
Inter-Company crossover
Spidey teaches Batman
how to webswing.

First, when you walked in the door you were greeted in a mini "comic book convention." Two local comic book shops had tables set up in the lobby. Both stores were giving away Free Comic Book Day comics and had a modest amount of merchandise to sell. Both stores had wisely selected only kid-friendly comics for display since the crowd was going to be full of kids. Both stores also had people dressed up in character for the kids. Comic Store West had the version of Batman from the Dark Knight movies and a great homemade Thor costume. Planet X had classic Batman, Green Arrow, and Indiana Jones, each with a publicity stills that they were signing. Also in the lobby they were serving refreshments and, of course, selling tickets.
Thor takes a fighting pose

York Little Theater is also celebrating its 80th anniversary and hosting a number of special events. They were featuring a decade at a time and were showcasing the 80's with a featured display.

Green Arrow had the best costume
During intermission there was a costume contest. My son dressed up as Spider-Man. There was also a Peter Parker, Supergirl, Captain America, Mr. Noface, and a weird skeletal alien thing. The contest was decided by the cheers from the crow with Mr. Noface and Captain America taking the prizes.

After the show we got to take a tour of all the backstage areas including rigging, rear projection, prop creation, the soundroom, and the lighting areas. Very nice!

The play itself was very cute. You could tell that it was written by a lifelong comic book fan because of the witty banter in it. Characters throughout the play make scores of references to both popular and obscure comic book characters and even slip into "geek-speak" to discuss these characters. For example, one character mentions Venom's weakness to fire and sonics while another analyzes Mr. Fantastic's motivation of guilty feelings at having mutated his friends.

Indy helps Green Arrow
make an adjustment
The costume contest at intermission
The main character is Stanley (This alone tells me the writer is a superfan... get it - Stan-Lee!), an aspiring comic book artist. He accidentally gets a hold of a magical pen that makes anything drawn with it come to life. Meanwhile, the staff of the comic book company uses the pens to create a supervillain that can freeze time... Dr. Shock Clock! To respond, Stanley creates the Fabulous Four - Starguy (with his Charisma Ray), Triple Time (superfast), Blossom (magical flowers for various effects) and Wombat Woman (burrow through anything!). This band of misfits fights Dr. Shock Clock unsuccessfully and Stanley himself has to become Eraser Man to fight Dr. Shock Clock!

The play and the atmosphere were highly enjoyable. If you're in the York, PA area I would suggest checking it out. I think it is only running for another week so get your tickets fast!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Batman Promotes Play - "Adventures of a Comic Book Artist"

Check out this video. In case you're wondering, Batman is being played than none other than Brian Waltersdorff, owner of Comic Store West and founding member of the Keystone Gaming Society! Batman uses his amazing Bat-Computer to figure out the first name of a news anchor on TV... astonishing! I'll bet he even knows my first name!

Seriously, it's great to see this show being put on and it was great of Brian to be a good sport and dress up for the event. I think he has a superhero suit for every DC hero... including Wonder Woman. Frightening.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Geek Gear: Hungry Birds T-Shirt

Hungry Birds T-Shirt
This item is a double whammy. It manages to parody TWO major properties at the same time! How clever!

Of course, we all know Angry Birds and the Hunger Games at this point. Replace the Mockingjay from the famous Hunger Games pin with an Angry Bird and you've got the "Hungry Birds" T-Shirt!

This one is sure to make some folks do a double take because they're so used to seeing the Hunger Games pin and this shirt's design is similar but with a major tweak.

So what's next - Angry Games? I'm pretty sure that's already called UFC.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Geek Gear: Fat Tony Figure

Fat Tony the Tiger
This item caught my attention just for its sheer audacity. Fat Tony the Tiger speaks to me on so many levels. It manages to be a parody, social commentary, and a toy at the same time.

Everyone knows that sugary cereals have put a toy in the box for years to entice children into demanding that particular cereal. So to make a toy that points out just how fattening these cereals are is just brilliant.

But then to specifically target Tony the Tiger is beyond brilliant because Tony is often showed succeeding in a variety of athletic endeavors. This implies that if  you eat Frosted Flakes you'll be able to slam dunk and run a marathon. It is doubtful that Olympic level athletes consider Frosted Flakes to be a good part of a diet for serious athletes.

Then look at the box it comes in. Free Ritalin inside! Killkidds, not "Kellogg's!" "A Ton of Tiger with a Short Shelf Life!" Heh. Now that's funny.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gaming Notes: Settlers of Catan #2

The sweetest Catan victory ever?
I've played a lot of games of Settlers of Catan. I mean a LOT. I'd like to think I have a pretty good track record of victory. I particularly like a come-from-behind victory that nobody sees coming.

I've also played a lot of games with the Keystone Gaming Society. I mean a LOT! But, even though we all love Settlers we've never played together. Until the other day, that is. We sat down and played a five player game.

I chose the brown pieces. Since we weren't playing with my set it was nice to play with a complete set of brown pieces for a change.

Anyway, I liked my initial layout. I had a lot of wheat, sheep, and ore with some brick but no wood. In fact, the way the board ended up almost nobody had any wood. At least I wasn't alone in my wood-less state.

My victory strategy was simple - development cards and build cities. I got an early city on the board and let's just say it spiraled out of control from there. Thanks to my many development cards, the other players couldn't keep the robber on me and I made sure to shut down any wood production, using the theory, "If I can't have it, nobody can."

At one point, several wood producing numbers were rolled in a row. I noted that players were holding it so I used my monopoly and got a huge wood infusion. I quickly rolled out roads and a new settlement. A quick turn or two around the board and I was looking at my new city.

I drew one victory point and with the largest army I found myself on the cusp of victory with nine points. It didn't take long to build that last settlement and clinch the victory.

The shocking thing was the totality of my victory. Normally a Settlers game is relatively close - within a point or two. But I thrashed the rest of KGS in a way that made them vow to never play Settlers again as a group. I think the next closest person had five points and that included longest road. One poor soul still only had two points.

While I always love a good Settlers game, defeating the great gamers of KGS so completely was perhaps my greatest Settlers victory ever.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stan Lee: 10% or $10 Million?

Stan Lee Biography

I was recently reading the biography, Stan Lee: Creator of Spider-Man with my son and I learned quite a bit about "The Man." But one little tidbit tucked in the back of the book really made me stand up and take notice.

The book says that Stan Lee has a contract with Marvel to get 10% of all profits from movies starring characters he created. That's 10% of EVERYTHING - not just the box office but all the ancillary profits from toys, video games, shirts, DVD's, licensing rights - you name it.

To put that in perspective, Marvel movies have made BILLIONS of dollars worldwide in box office alone. Now, sure, not all of that is Marvel profits but Marvel certainly sees a sizable chunk of that. Add toys on top of that (toys from the original Spider-Man movie topped over $100 million in sales in one year alone) and it's a virtual gold mine.

So if Stan Lee's gotten 10% of all of that, he's a very, very wealthy man - right?

Wrong. In 2002, Stan Lee sued Marvel (after the first few Spider-Man movies were a hit) because they weren't paying him and he won. But then Marvel appealed and the decision was overturned. Instead, Marvel paid Lee a one-time $10 million and Lee completely signed over the rights to all of the great characters he created.

Think of it. 10% would have been hundreds of millions of dollars (heck, maybe even a billion!) to date but instead Lee only got $10 million. Marvel should be ashamed of themselves because without Lee they'd be making NOTHING!

Still, I'll give Stan Lee a ton of credit - he still appears in these films, still promotes them for all he's worth, and still has a good attitude about the whole thing.

Stan Lee, to me, you'll always be "The Man" and it's a shame Marvel decided to stab you in the back when you're the one that built Marvel with your own two hands.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Astonishing X-Men: Gifted

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted is Marvel's first motion comic, originally released online in iTunes and other such venues in 2009. The six episodes have since been collected on DVD.
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
Although this motion comic was the first, in some regards it is the best of the bunch I've reviewed to date. 

First, the story is, without a doubt, the best of the motion comics. If it seems familiar to you that's because elements of this story were recreated for the third X-Men live action film such as the "cure" for mutation. 

The plot is actually thin on action and heavy on philosophy. There are plenty of scenes that just have the X-Men sitting around and talking or fighting among themselves. To me, that's a strength of the series. When the mutant "cure" is released, the X-Men don't just rush off to destroy it - they discuss the tenets behind their philosophy... who are they to deny mutants the ability to shed their mutation? But what if the government weaponizes the "cure?" Also, in the Professor's absence what remains of his philosophy and dream?   

The episodes also balance the cast out extremely well. Wolverine doesn't dominate the show and some characters that don't often get the limelight get a chance to shine. The tension between Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost is wonderful to watch. Beast's inner struggle with a personal choice weighs heavily upon him, forcing him into a confrontation with Wolverine. Cyclops and Wolverine both are still trying to get over the death of Jean Grey and everyone wonders if Emma is mind controlling Cyclops.

If I can find a fault with the plot it's that it that there are too many plot threads that either aren't introduced properly or aren't resolved. Marvel literally translates the comic panel by panel, word by word. But it would actually benefit from a little bit more explanation and backstory. Things that would shock or excite someone that's been reading X-Men for 20 years lack a punch without the proper context. For example, there's a "surprising" return of a character long thought dead... but to the viewer you don't even realize that's the case. Likewise, the tension between Kitty and Emma, while highly entertaining, isn't resolved and doesn't really have a true significance in the story. Sure, it sets up future events... that aren't on this DVD. 

This word-for-word translation lends to a few awkward moments. One is when a student says the F-word, only to have it bleeped out. In the comic, this would just be squiggles like this #$!@#^&$#! but on screen it just seems weird to have a bleep in the middle of a DVD. Then Wolverine goes on a swearing tirade that's entirely bleeped. I don't know if they were trying to be funny but it just comes across as being odd. I would have preferred that they simply substituted some words that would pass the censors on regular TV.

The music and voice acting for this series is surprisingly good. I would say the frantic music with a heavy beat is one of the strong positives for the show. 

The animation is really good... until it isn't. Mouths move much better than they do in some of the later motions comics. I thought action sequences looked very smooth and natural. They really used 3D effects to great advantage. I really liked the fact that little details were attended to (such as breathing and blinking) that make the characters seem very real. But when a character turns their heads they used some type of morphing technology where the image morphs into the turned head image. It ends up looking like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. The same effect was used for shifting emotions and it just made the faces look distorted. 

Ultimately, though, was the viewing experience enjoyable? Yes, thanks in large part to Joss Whedon's amazing story. The guy who made the Avengers a billion plus dollar movie doesn't go wrong with the X-Men either. It's worth checking out but fans will enjoy it much more because casual viewers might find themselves a little lost.

1LR REVIEW - 14 out of 20! It's a Hit!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Geek Gear: Settlers of Catan Plush Robber Set

Catan Robber Set
This one kinda mystifies me. If you recall, awhile back a set of plush resource dolls was released for Settlers of Catan. Were they cute? Yes. Were they stupid? Yes. Did they have an actual in-game function that allowed you to play with them during the game and impacted how you played the game? Yes. So you ended up with a cute but stupid game accessory.

Which is why these robbers mystify me. I've tried to do research on them and as near as I can tell they have no in-game function. So what are they for? I mean, they don't even really qualify as cute in my opinion. So what you wind up with is are weird and stupid dolls that just happen to have the name Catan attached to them. I mean, there aren't even three robbers in the game - just one.

So, how could you use these dolls in game? Well, here's what I came up with. The dolls start nearby but not "in play." When someone rolls a 7 and moves the in-game robber (but not playing a solider card) they can claim a robber doll from the side until they are all claimed. Once all three robber plushes are claimed by players any further 7's would cause someone to be able to steal a robber plush in addition to stealing resources. The rules for this would be the same - you would have to move the robber onto a hex that that person is getting resources from. If, at any one time, someone has all three robber plushes he scores 2 points, the equivalent of longest road or largest army. He is declared the Thief Lord! As an opinion, you could make these points permanent and say that the robber plushes could no longer be stolen. As another option, you could say that a player could take resources equal to the number of thief plushes they have plus one. For example - if you had two thief plushes and roll a 7 and move the robber you would steal three resources from the players affected in any combination (2 from 1 player and 1 from another, 3 from one player, or 1 from 3 different players).

So while these dolls may not have come with a in-game play mechanic, you can see that you could easily grant them one should you choose to.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

War of the Independents Mega Crossover!!!!!

War of the Independents... NOT a "Find Flava Flav" book
Why should Marvel and DC get all of the *cough* "great" crossovers? Well, now, thanks to Dave Ryan and Red Anvil Comics, they won't!

War of the Independents (Get it - it's named after America's War of IndependANCE...) has a cast of literally hundreds of independent characters. Virtually any character not published by the biggest companies (which are, perhaps, a little bit more protective of their intellectual property rights) is in this thing!

But that doesn't mean that it's full of no name characters you've never heard of. I'm sure most comic book fans would recognize the likes of Bone, The Maxx, Madman!, Zen, Cerebus, Scud the Disposable Assassin (a personal favorite!), Milk and Cheese, Shi, Too Much Coffee Man, Gumby, Megaton Man, Usagi Yojimbo, Dawn, Buzzboy, The Tick, The Pro, The Flaming Carrot, and, yes, that IS Flava Flav... I finally found him!

I'm sure this six issue limited series will be of great interest to true completionists for popular characters such as The Tick, Bone, or Scud. I found a personal favorite that has a special place in my heart - Drunken Monkey (he's to the right of the giant robot thing). I'll have to tell you about Drunken Monkey sometime - but know that he's worth supporting with your dollars!

It appears that the first three issues have already been released. You can get an incomplete roster of who appears in the war here.

Is there any chance this book actually has something to say and turns out to be good? No, probably not. But the concept is so massively huge I'm surprised it has gotten off the ground at all. I mean, we're talking about a bunch of characters from REALLY different comics. If somebody had told me that Bone would cross over with Milk and Cheese I wouldn't have believed them. Let alone crossing over with a few hundred other comics at the same time! Gaaahhh!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Geek Gear: Darth Vader and Son Picture Book

Together, we can rule the galaxy! And go out for ice cream.
Ever wonder what would have happened if Darth Vader has actually raised Luke? Well, wonder no longer! Thanks to the comical picture book "Darth Vader and Son!"

How would Darth Vader deal with the trials and tribulations of an average dad? If you're a father you know what I'm talking about. The reason God hasn't given us force powers is because our children know how to push us to the Dark Side.

But force powers could be quite practical as a parent as well... "No, I said you're going to clean    your     room..." (Wave hands) Who needs a remote when you can change the channel with the force? And imagine being able to force choke any of your daughter's boyfriends. It never works, no matter how hard I try. *sigh*

But I also wonder about Leia. Where's the "Darth Vader's Little Leia" book? Surely that would be equally hilarious.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gaming Notes: DnD 5.0 Playtest #1

DnD "Next" - no wonder they need so many playtesters...
I'm so pumped! Finally, Wizards of the Coast got everything sorted out with the downloads to the playtesting materials for 5.0 and, since then, has released several updates. My gaming group decided to participate in the playtest and boy have I been impressed so far!

The character creation process is simple and straightforward. I created a warlock. In the party we also had two clerics, a sorcerer, a dwarven fighter, and a elven rogue. The DM decided to run the Caves of Chaos adventure as it was released for 5.0 playtesting. This group had played this adventure in 2nd edition so we were very familiar with it.

We started out at a town, hearing rumors of monsters attacking nearby caravans. People and valuables have gone missing and the town wanted us to check it out, promising 100 gp reward if we could stop the attacks.

So, we set off toward the source of the disturbance. My warlock, having the skill of geographical knowledge, lead the party successfully to the Caves of Chaos in a few days time.

We were starring at a sparsely vegetated canyon or valley with several cave entrances along its slopped surface. Being lazy, we decided to take the nearest one.

Well, we had just stepped in the door when we ran into a band of goblins. We joined the battle but a couple of them scurried away, only to return with reinforcements! Yikes! Our thief went down in the combat but we were victorious, sending the few remaining goblins scurrying away in fear.

We did a little healing and resting and then were rudely interrupted by a ogre coming down the hallway! Uh-oh! This large creature looked like he was gunning for us! It took all of our combined efforts but we eventually laid the monster low.

Overall, I was very impressed with how smooth the combats went. We had somewhere around 20 total combatants engaged in combat at the same time but rounds went very quickly.

So far, I'm REALLY impressed with 5th edition! I can't wait to play more!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Geek Gear: Lightsaber Flashlights

Lightsaber flashlight
Seriously? This was never done before?

This one seems like a natural. After all, a flashlight and lightsaber are both the same basic shape and they both shoot light out of the end.

There are currently two - Vader and Luke's lightsabers. They feature sound effects as well as light! They're seven inches... I wonder how well they actually work as a flashlight? For $25 the answer had better be "Very well!"

I do think that they missed out on naming these things. Instead of repeating the word "light" perhaps they should be called a Flashlightsaber.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Geek Gear: Tiger Cologne, Black Widow Perfume

Black Widow Perfume (for Women)
Tiger Cologne (for Men)
These two items speak for themselves. Comic books have now officially been integrated into everything. They even have a car called "Avenger." Surely these two fragrances are the first two comic book-inspired scents.

Tiger is a cologne for men featuring the iconic first image of Miss Mary Jane Watson saying, "Face it tiger... You just hit the Jackpot!" If this was from the movie Anchorman they would say it was made with chunks of real tiger. As it is, the solicitation describes it as "elegant and very masculine" and "It just seems to tingle all over." Well, 1LR would advise against putting Tiger cologne ALL over.

BLack Widow is a perfume for women. Now I'd be worried if my wife actually owned this. I don't want her to romance the notion of being a widow! The solicitation for this perfume frankly just sounds gross, describing the scent of the perfume as "A spider spindling silently from above," and saying it is for, "Those who can navigate the high-tension tightrope of love and duty." What duty are they talking about exactly? I don't want to know.

So while 1LR applauds the inventiveness behind these two fragrances, we question the marketing department's choice of words. They could have just said, "Hey geeks - take a shower, shave, and put on some cologne. Women like Mary Jane will like you more!" They probably would have sold more bottles that way. Just sayin'.

Geek Gear: Nintendo Figures

10-Doh! cartridge figures
From the company 10-Doh! (get it... (Nin)-ten-do!) comes these cut little figures. They're shaped like a classic Nintendo video game cartridge.

Each figure is 3 1/2 inches tall and figures a spoof of a popular video game.

Nostalgia rules!

What's not cool is that they decided to make the gold cartridges "rare" with only one per case! While I wouldn't mind owning some of these cool little buggers and I don't mind even buying blind while do some need to be rarer than others?

So I don't advise trying to buy them all but it would still be cool to sit some out at work and see who recognizes them for what they are.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Wolverine and the X-Men

Wolverine and the X-Men is the fourth X-Men cartoon. It was released in 2009 and lasted for one season, totally 26 episodes.
Wolverine and the X-Men
After three prior X-Men cartoons, the show's creators were faced with a problem - how do you say something new about the X-Men? Their answer was to blow up the X-Mansion, put Xavier in a coma, "kill" Jean, and disband the X-Men. And that happens before the beginning of the first show!

This sets the tone for the series - the gloves are off and no holds are barred. Forget what you read in the comics - anything can happen to these X-Men. This fact makes watching the show all that more interesting. Sure, the characters are familiar but the situation isn't and the fact that these stories aren't just rehashing old comic book tales opens up a world of possibilities. 

Wolverine is the focal character of the show. He rebuilds the X-Men to fight the looming threat of the Mutant Response Division (a government program) and the Sentinels. The X-Men's roster is large with more than a dozen X-Men and includes Emma Frost. Beyond this, the show hosts another hundred or so characters that appear and reappear throughout the show such as Magneto, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Polaris, Senator Kelly, and Boliver Trask to name a few. The large X-Men roster means that besides Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Professor X, and Cyclops most of the X-Men exist as secondary characters - given a chance to shine a few times but for the most part they're in the background. I appreciate the inclusiveness of the vision but sometimes the size of the cast of characters makes remembering storylines from episode to episode somewhat difficult. 

This problem is compounded when we start seeing visions of the "Days of Future Past" world from the future. We are then introduced to alternate future versions of the same characters that exist in the present with parallel storylines between them. 

As always, time travel is messed up. Xavier can contact Wolverine from the future, appearing as a hologram. But time seems to pass at the same rate for future Xavier and current Wolverine. What would cause this? Why can't future Xavier choose when in time to contact Wolverine? And then there's the issue of the timeline correction. When the X-Men prevent the future timeline, future Xavier retains his memories of a timeline that never existed. But if that timeline never existed then future Xavier never would have contacted Wolverine in the present, thus creating a time paradox. 

Characters are designed to be very tall and sleek. The women are drawn with impossibly narrow waistlines. Overall, the art is very clean and bright with a visually interesting design style. Most of the characters either draw direct inspiration from the comics or the movies. 

Overall, the show capably blazes its own trail while keeping the familiar nearby, carefully weaving together several major X-Men storylines (Hellfire Club, Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, etc.). The complex story takes far too long to coalesce, however, and by the time the great ending comes at the end of the show many viewers will lost interest. 

1LR REVIEW - 13 out of 20! It's a Glancing Hit!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Geek Gear: Marvel Dolls

Tonner Marvel Doll Collection
What's the difference between a doll and an action figure? Especially when the same characters have been made into both?

I would say that an action figure is designed for "rough play" and recreating battle scenes and the like. You don't dress up an action figure.

A doll, on the other hand, is more about fashion and hair than fighting.

Enter Tonner's Marvel Doll Collection. Tonner has many doll lines including Harry Potter.

This line includes Black Cat, Elektra, Scarlet Witch, Phoenix, Ms. Marvel, Rogue, and more. Essentially, you have Barbie but dressed up as your favorite super heroes.

While I personally can't see myself buying any of these dolls, I thought the development was noteworthy and wanted to report it to my faithful 1LR readers!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Claws of the Hunters

1LR is still bringing you great new cards from the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG's new expansion, Hero's Destiny!
Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Claws of the Hunters

Claws of the Hunters is simple and straightforward. No special abilities except the ability to deal out a ton of damage. It's a level 13 dual power icon card that's both red and grey. It features Reptil and the Black Panther and can do up with 13 damage. It also has an orange block. It's a Super Rare.

This is the Black Panther's Avenger response to Storm's X-Men Card, Fast as Lightning. It's essentially the same card but with different colors, block, characters and team affiliation. So if you're looking for a heavy hitter to put into an Avengers deck, Storm/Black Panther deck or just a dual attack icon deck, you could do far worse than Claws of the Hunters. Essentially, if your opponent actually allows the power to get to 13 your chances of winning dramatically increase with this bad boy.

And the great thing is that Avengers cards have THREE cards that can boost your power for this card. True Power raises your power by one, period. Avengers Courage raises your power by one for all Avengers cards. Finally, Cold Fusion raises your power for all green and grey cards. So with the help of these keepers you have really great chances of playing Claws of the Hunters. Your poor opponent.

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's a Great Big Superhero World! (At Target)

Superhero toys
During a recent trip to Target I noticed, as I'm sure you have, that there is a TON of comic book related merchandise for sale in a store like Target or Walmart. I wanted to find out exactly how much stuff. So here was the rule - to "count" the item in question has to come from a property that STARTED as a comic book. So Batman and Spider-Man count but Casper and Strawberry Shortcake do not. I wanted to count how many items are for sale at a Target that have comic book inspired.

This is much harder to do than you might think. I started out just walking around the store with a notepad and making tally marks but it quickly became overwhelming.

I decided the best thing to do would be to make a gift registry with all of the items. That way, the computer would tally the items up for me.

What I discovered was that items are available in several major categories.

Video games
First, are, of course, toys. There are a wide spectrum of superhero toys available. In fact, they have their own aisle! Spider-Man, Batman, and the Avengers dominated the aisle, of course, because of the movies this summer. But there were plenty of other toys available as well. Marvel Super Hero Squad was well represented. Toys are available for all ages and all levels of sophistication. Lines such as the Bonkazonks, Marvel Miniature, and Marvel Legends diversified the offerings. There were a lot of dress-up clothes as well like superhero masks, Hulk gloves, Iron Man chest light, and Spider-Man web shooters.

Games are another category that was well represented. The Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG is available for sale at Target. There are plenty of board games. But video games was a big category unto itself such as Batman's Arkham Asylum.

 Perhaps the biggest category, however, is apparel. Shirts, pajamas, shoes, hats, underwear... pretty much anything you can wear, it's available with something comic book related on it. I noticed that the superheroes were directed toward boys only. There was no clothing in the little girl or adult woman's section related to comic books. How odd, right? I mean, girls like comics and comic book movies too, don't they? There is plenty of sports team apparel made for females - why not comic book items?

Party Supplies
Party supplies was another big category. Pretty much when you choose a theme for a party you want EVERYTHING to go along with that theme so the numbers quickly add up. Cups, plates, party favors, decorations, not to mention birthday cards.

There were a ton of food items that bore the image of a superhero as well. As you can well imagine, everything from fruit snacks to frozen pizzas were adorned with and shaped like a superhero. Superheroes sell a lot of food.

DVDs were a natural category because superhero movies are so popular this summer.  Not only did Target have a ton of DVDs from popular superhero movies, it also had a bunch of non-superhero movies such as 300, V for Vendetta, and Howard the Duck as well. To up the count even further many of these movies were available in multiple versions - deluxe packages, widescreen vs fullscreen, and BluRays.

The last category I would call "miscellaneous." In this category goes everything that doesn't fit into one of the other categories. Pretty much anything you can stick a superhero's picture on, they've done it. Notebooks, folders, pens, lunchboxes, picture books, bikes, fishing poles, backpacks... the list is nearly endless.

So, how many different comic book inspired items does Target carry? It's hard to give an exact number and it depends on how you would count. Should every different toy in a line of toys count as an item or does the entire toy line count as one item? While an exact number eludes me, here's what is for certain: It is WELL OVER 500 items no matter how you count in difficult categories (if you counted every item individually it would perhaps be as many as 900 or 1,000). That's a LOT of merchandise bearing the likenesses of characters coming from comic books.

Surely there is no doubt that we live in the Comic Book Age. A large portion of our culture is dedicated to these iconic heroes.

X-Men Trilogy (X-Men / X2: X-Men United / X-Men: The Last Stand) Movie Poster
What mystifies me is this: The one item that Target doesn't sell? COMIC BOOKS! How is this possible? Target is willing to sell anything with Spider-Man's image except for Spider-Man comics? Surely if Target did carry them they would sell. And while I'm sure comic book shops are glad that they don't, how can the big comic book companies walk away from such huge outlets such as Target and Walmart? Imagine the audiences that could be reached that aren't otherwise! I know for myself as a kid I used to buy all of my comics at a local gas station I could walk to. Were those comics not sold in that gas station I doubt I would have become the avid comic book fan I am today. Try finding comics in a gas station today. You can't do it!

So, come on, Target and Walmart! Start selling comic books! After all, you're certainly willing to profit from superheroes everywhere else in your stores.

One side note: Aside from superheroes it was impossible for me to miss the second place property: Cars 2. Even though this movie was released over a year ago it is still extremely popular as a brand and can be found in almost all of the same categories I listed above for superheroes.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gaming Notes: Run Out the Guns!

Run Out the Guns!
I recently got to play the RPG Run Out the Guns!. The system it uses can be described as Rolemaster lite.

I played a Stewart. The character generation system is random so, while my original concept was to have a emotionally scarred veteran trying to keep his head down and not attract any attention working as a cook, that didn't turn out and instead my background was a poacher and seaman.

The adventure was already underway when I joined. Wisely, I'm sure, in a prior adventure the party had set sail, captured a ship that had just left the same port, and then brought back that ship to the very same port it had just left from.

Well, of course, this attracted attention from the local authorities. We quickly spun a story that we had found the ship deserted and were bringing it back... to turn over to the authorities, of course. Once the authorities weren't quite satisfied with our story but were willing to let it go if we don't a job for them. We quickly agreed and received a commission to hunt and destroy Dutch ships.

With a narrow escape, we set out on the town. Now, one of the things in Run Out the Guns! is that, if you've been at sea for a certain amount of time, you HAVE to make rolls on vice tables. It could be drinking, gambling, whatever. And rolling better doesn't guarantee a better result - for example, if you've TOO good at gambling, people could think you've cheated and you could end up in a big fight.

Well, let's just say that the game master doesn't really need to write too much of an adventure because your vice rolls alone give him plenty of fuel for the fire. Half the party ended up in jail (again), some of us ended up violating the rules of the ship, others ended up blindly hungover, but I actually won a fair amount of money gambling and walked away no worse for the wear.

After we all recovered from our various states, we limped out of port with our papers in hand, eager to capture some Dutch vessels.

I missed the final installment of this game, but based on their prior experiences I'm SURE it went really, really well. *wink*

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Never Give Up

The Super Hero Squad TCG's new set, Hero's Destiny, has a ton of great all-new cards and 1LR continues to examine them one at a time.
Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG
Hero's Destiny:
Never Give Up

Never Give Up is a red card at power level 6 that does up to 2 damage. It has a grey block. When it does at least two damage it becomes a keeper that allows you to draw a card every time your opponent blocks an X-Men attack from your hand.

This draw ability is simply fabulous. In an all-X-Men deck this could cause you to draw quite a few extra cards, giving you the hand-size advantage and tipping the scales in your favor. I mean, think about it. Every time your opponent's hand gets smaller by one card your hand gets larger by one card. It won't take long before that advantage lets you break the game wide open.

What's great about this keeper is that it will never misfire because it doesn't do any damage. Thus, if you opponent wants to get rid of it they have to specifically target it with keeper removal. Since you'll have extra cards in your hand, the chances that you'll be able to block any attempt at removing this keeper increases dramatically.

This card works brilliantly with chaining X-Men cards. Whisk on the Winds is particularly good. First, the extra draws increase the odds of giving you a good chain. Secondly, your opponent stopping the chain just feeds the fire. Thirdly, there's a chance you'll be able to get in a few good licks before your opponent blocks, thus doing damage AND drawing a second card. Astonishing!

In the endgame, this card puts your opponent in a lose-lose situation - either let massive damage through or allow your opponent to draw another critical card.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor

You know, Eternia, the land that is the setting for He-Man from the Masters of Universe, doesn't strike me as having much of a continuity. I mean, it's name - Eternia - strongly indicates to me that this is a timeless place. He-Man and Skeletor are locked in an endless battle of good vs evil.

But that's apparently changing, thanks to DC's new one-shot, Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor #1. How did Skeletor become an evil tyrant and a powerful magician? I'm guessing we'll get our answers finally in this issue!

By the way, what a awesome cover!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Retractable Blaster

Marvel Super Hero Squad's new Hero's Destiny has a ton of great all-new cards and 1LR continues to bring them all to you!
Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG:
Hero's Destiny
Retractable Blaster

Retractable Blaster is a Warmachine keeper with a power level of five that does up to two initial damage. This grey card has a orange block. Once it is a keeper, it does one damage a round, just like Iron Man's "Repulsor Rays."

The big difference between the two is that when Retractable Blaster misfires it returns to your hand. This is HUGE.

First, it means that the only ways your opponent can get rid of this card once it is in your hand is to block if from their hand when it is being played or cause you to discard it. This makes this card extremely persistent. If your opponent blocks this card from their hand when it is already in play, causing it to misfire and return to your hand, it is doubtful that they would have another grey block to prevent you from replaying it and putting it right back into play that very round.

Secondly, the "boomerang" aspect of this card acts kinda like healing, kinda like card draw, and kinda like Spider-Man's "You Can Count On Me." By coming back to your hand instead of your deck this card adds an additional card to your hand (remember, you're still going to draw a card on your turn). This gives you an additional block - one your opponent knows you have so it might act as a bit of deterrent or, the opposite, it might bait your opponent into playing an orange card hoping you'd block with Retractable Blaster.

This card is a solid lock for a grey keeper deck. While not all of the cards are realized yet in the physical game, the online version has a plethora of great grey keepers such as "Repulsor Rays," "Boomcannon," "Shoulder Cannon," "Arms Race," "Iron Gardener," "Nucleons Going Critical," "Time Bomb," "Crushbot Crew," "Fragile Boombot," and "Stolen Technology," to name some of them. With the threat of this many grey keepers crushing down round after round surely any deck's grey blocks will be quickly exhausted, leaving them vulnerable.

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy. It is the first of the X-Men Origins movies and was released in 2009.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The film opens in 1845 with a young James Howlett in a quick sequence that sees his powers develop just in time to kill a man who he discovers is his true father. This sequence is taken directly from the Wolverine: Origin comic book miniseries and it gets the film off to a great start.

The title sequence then spans across the next 130 years of history or so as we see Victor and James fight together through the Civil War, World War I, World War II and into Vietnam. Through these scenes we see Victor turning increasingly violent and James's growing unease with this development. The film opens brilliantly thanks to this quick sequence. The viewers are given everything they need to know about Victor and James and easily understand their relationship. Stryker then recruits both Victor and James for his mutant squad. I really loved the opening action here with Agent Zero and Wade Wilson. Ryan Reynolds made for a great Wilson but ultimately, the team has a few too many members and isn't on screen long enough to even learn all of their names. Ultimately, through Stryker's overly zealous search for adamantium, James leaves the team.

The film then fast forwards six years and James is living with the beautiful Kayla and working as an "axe-man" (which is really funny if you think about it). Kayla turns out to be Silver Fox, a mutant with the power to influence people's thoughts. Victor shows up and seems to kill her, prompting Wolverine to seek out Stryker and get the adamantium bonded to his skeleton. The creative team really goes through great paints to make this sequence as faithful to the glimpses we got in the first three X-Men films. In a later post I'll go through the continuity gaffs but it is clear that the creators intended to keep this film in sync with the prior X-Men films. As a fan, I really appreciated these efforts.

But then comes the boxing scene. To me, the boxing scene is the line of demarcation in this film - everything before it is really great but it somehow goes very wrong in that scene and it never gets right again. Gambit is completely wasted. He dances some cards around but then why is he pursuing a fight with Wolverine, even inadvertently saving Sabretooth? Once they get to Three Mile Island (TMI) Gambit is effectively written out of the film.

Deadpool is, likewise, mangled and wasted. He is genetically altered to have teleportation, eye lasers, healing ability, and three foot swords that can retract into his arms. But if those swords actually retracted he wouldn't be able to bend his arms!

This film does host a ton of cameo appearances by familiar characters. Most familiar are Scott Summers and Professor X. It seems that Wolverine saves a young Cyclops without Cyclops being aware of it and the Professor recruits him at this point. Other noteworthy cameos include Emma (Frost?), Quicksilver, Toad, Jason (Stryker's son), and Banshee (among many others). It's always nice to see a director work in these cameos even if the characters don't have large roles.

Like the other X-Men: Origins film, First Class, the climax of this film takes place in an identifiable historic event - the near-meltdown at TMI on March 28, 1979. This timeline is confirmed by the events and dates given in the film (Wolverine in Vietnam, which ended in 1973 and shortly after the film fast forwards six years.) This is particularly significant for me personally as I lived in that area at the time of the near-disaster. I think it's very cool how the film works mutants into already established historic events.

The effects were, for the most part, very well done. I particularly liked when Cyclops blasts the school nearly in half leaving red hot canyons in the ceiling and floor. Wolverine's claws seem to have been given more dimension and at times looked really bad. There was also some pretty bad green screen work as well.

Although this film is uneven and really drops the ball at times, there's enough good here to make the viewing experience enjoyable.

1LR REVIEW - 12 out of 20! It's a Glancing Hit!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG: Roar of Triumph

1LR is still bringing you  the best of the all-new cards from Hero's Destiny, the new expansion to the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG!
Marvel Super Hero Squad
Hero's Destiny:
Roar of Triumph

Road of Triumph has a damage potential of seven, is power level seven and features the Hulk (Gladiator version). This red card has a grey block and after three damage can become a keeper. As a keeper it allows you to heal four if you do four damage with a green attack.

This card combines a good deal of up front damage potential with a kicker of healing later. To my knowledge this is the first card that ties the Hulk's red healing cards together with his brutal green attack cards.

The three damage to make this card a keeper does give me some pause since that makes it half as likely that this card will actually become a keeper. But I think that risk can be managed effectively in a red green Hulk deck like I managed. I'm sure your opponent will have used the red blocks in their hand to stop some of the other devastating red healing cards or keepers with lower power costs than this one. A relentless green power attack will likewise eventually overcome any defense to trigger the four damage requirement to activate the healing.

Playing this card followed with She-Hulk's power level seven card, "Group Hug" would have the potential to do 17 damage and heal four - that's a twenty one card differential.

One of the things I like about this card is it turns almost every green card into a must-block.

Roar of Triumph is perhaps the most aptly named card for the Marvel Super Hero Squad TCG because it will certainly lead to many roars of triumph!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Coraline Graphic Novel

So what do you do when a famous comic book writer releases a novel? Well, you turn it into a graphic novel of course!

And that's exactly what they've done with Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Have you seen the movie? Yes, it was extremely weird but I've read the book and I can say that the book is even creepier. I didn't care for the movie that much but the book is pretty good.

As for the idea of turning into a graphic novel, sure, why not. But don't you think that if Gaiman had intended for it to be a graphic novel he would have written it that way in the first place?

And there are a ton of novels that get turned into graphic novels... but are there any graphic novels that get translated into novels? Hmmm... I can't think of any....