Sunday, November 27, 2011

Extending The Break

For various reasons, some professional and some personal, I will have to extend my Thanksgiving Break for an indefinite amount of time.

Thank you,

- Jim

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

With deadlines looming and this being a short work week, I'm going to take a week off from posting to get caught up on projects and try to enjoy the holidays.

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

- Jim

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pierre reviews The DC Universe Online

Sometimes Pierre is hard at work on an animation project for a Canadian studio. Sometimes he is working on artwork for people like the recent horror story he worked on. Then sometimes, he is just playing games to relax. Today, Pierre tells us what he thinks about the DC Universe Online which he recently just started playing.

When DC Universe Online was first released, all the signs were pointing towards that it would be free to play before long. Heck even BEFORE it was released. For a MMORPG, there is no way that it had enough content for people to pay $15 a month. Also, the options to customize your character was limited at best.  As more details about the game leaked out, it soon became obvious that only extreme DC fans would pay $15 a month to play this game.

I know a few full time gamers (I used to say professional gamers,  but their lack of skill made me realise that although they were playing 80 hours a week,  most of them weren’t very good),  and for full time gamers,  they would go through DCUO’s content with multiple characters in 2 weeks,  maybe 3 weeks at most. Even casual gamers would take about one month to go through DCUO’s content. So how could Sony/DC expect people to pay $15 a month for DCUO??

If they had released new content on a regular basis,  maybe people would have stuck around,  but their first new content (War of the Light) was just released not that long ago.  There is no way that people would pay if there was just that little content added.

So since November 1st, DCUO has been free to play. And like many, I was curious about it. So I did download it to try it out. I downloaded both the PS3 and the PC version of the game. But I mostly played the PS3 version so far. Why both?? I prefer to play on PS3 nowadays, but none of my PS3 friends are playing DCUO, and I have a few friends who play or will play on the PC.

No, I did not download it November 1st, I waited 2 weeks. I did not really have the time to try it out. And I expected that a LOT of people would try it out that first week, and I was pretty sure that Sony would never be prepared for the rise in traffic that DCUO would get. And even more when two weeks later,  they still have a tough time adjusting themselves to all the new players that they have now. From what I read, it seems that they had 1 000 000 new players the first week they went free to play alone. I wonder how many more they got since then? And now, I am one of them new players. I don’t have much time to play, so I only played a few hours to get a feel of how the game works.

What I mostly did so far was play around with the character creator. In my book, the more options you have to customize your character, the better. DCUO is lacking a little in that department. It is somewhat limited and is missing some key elements.

I wanted to play as Batman, or Batman from Earth 53 or something, but that was not really an option. It seems that they went out of their way to try and prevent people to make their own Batman or Superman characters. But I will get back to that.

So I created the next best thing, Le Fantome (The Phantom in French).
And I made something that looks pretty close to the character.

Then I played around with the character creator and created Spider-man (either the 616 or the Ultimate version), Cyclops (his original costume and his “all new all different” one), Angel (at least 3 versions of his early costumes), the Punisher, Moon Knight, Colossus, Hawkeye, Storm Shadow, the Spectre, Invincible, and I have seen many Deadpool, Hulk, Iron-Man in the game,  and despite DC’s best efforts I have seen many Nightwing, Robin, Green Arrow, and Superman,  and others that I fail to mention. Somehow, it seems easier to make Marvel or other non-DC characters.

So after playing with the character creator,  I tried the game itself,  and it was fun. It is a game of button smashing, so if you guys expect a game with lots of strategy or with a deep story, you will be disappointed. But so far,  it is a fun action game. But I only played a few hours, so maybe later in the game things are different. We will see.

It is fun to visit Gotham or Metropolis and see Superman,  or to get a call from Oracle. If you are like me and miss the DCU already, you will get a kick of seeing them characters once more. And it is fun to fight the DCU villains like Brainiac, although early on what you see are actually his drones, but still you know that Brainiac is in there somewhere. ;)

The environments look nice, and it is fun to climb building or to jump from building to building. If you make yourself a Spider-man character, you will have lots of fun.

Lots of action! Sometimes,  it is overwhelming when you get caught into a crowd of henchmen. But you will not run out of bad guys to fight.

Not being able to play as Batman or Superman or any other DCU characters (unless you manage to create yourself a Nightwing645 with the character creator).

When I first heard about DCUO, not being able to play as a DCU character made NO SENSE. Why play DCUO then???  If you are going to play a generic character, why not play Champions or City of Heroes instead?? Why bother with DCUO then??

The argument is that it would be silly to have a 1000 Batman running around.
Really?? As opposed to Batman Inc?? Heck early on they go out of their way to introduce players to the multiverse and that there are infinite Earths. Why not allow players to play Batman from Earth 666 or something?? And if DC were worried that there would be too little diversity,   you already see a LOT of the same characters over and over. So you might as well see a lot of Batmen.
Although now they have added the Green Lantern, Red Lantern, and the Sinestro Corps that you can be a member of as far as I understand. So that is a step in the right direction.
  • How about adding other DCU factions that you could be a member of??
  • How about being able to play as a member of Checkmate?? Or the Darkstars??
  • Heck you could have a thousand of those and it would not matter.
  • Also, there are only 2 cities,  Gotham and Metropolis.

Did they really expect hardcore players to have enough of them 2 cities?? Even for a casual gamer that is not that much. You have to wonder what they were thinking. If they were adding one new city every month, Maybe that would make sense, but it took what, 6 months?? More??? For them to release their Green Lantern add-on.  Ouch! (And I don’t even think that it adds a new city. Or does it add Coast City?? I could not find any info about this.)

Sometimes you have to wait 10 minutes,  20 minutes,  as much as 45 minutes to play. It is not a problem at 3 AM,  But between 5 PM to 10 PM,  the waiting time can be long.

On the PS3 there are sound glitches - A lot. Too often,  I lose the sound completely,  or sometimes only a few sounds remain. It is not game breaker, but it can get annoying. Especially if Oracle gives you a call to explain to you your next mission and you can’t hear her. I hope they fix that soon.

Getting stuck in doorways - Sometimes, characters remain standing still right in the middle of a doorway blocking the way for everyone else. That can be annoying. There even was a time when one character was blocking one doorway, and two others blocked the other doorway trapping tree of us. Not fun when that happens.  I hope they manage to find a way to fix that soon too. And as far as I can tell, there is NO Daily Planet in Metropolis. I have no idea why this was omitted,  but that seems,  odd to me.  Although maybe it is there and I just did not see it yet??

So overall,  it is a fun action game that will allow you to do a lot of button smashing on the PS3 or a lot of mouse clicking on PC. I might pay $10 for the Green Lantern add0on at some point. I would love to play a member of the Sinestro Corp.

So if you pass by Gotham and see Le Fantome prowling on a rooftop, come by and say “Hi”. ;)

Until next time.
- Pierre

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Dubious Return of The Twelve

So, last week it was announced that Marvel were planning to finish The Twelve the J. Michael Straczynski grim and gritty Golden Age revival book which he abandoned in mid story so that he could go to DC and revitalize Superman and Wonder Woman (which he also abandoned.)

For those of you new to this blog, I have a love/hate relationship with Straczynski's writing. He seems determined to match every good idea he has with a worn out *shocking* idea from the 80's. If you have ever seen the final episode of M.A.S.H., that's pretty much how every JMS comic runs - hoary TV tropes served up with a dash of 60's pop psychology, but without the charm or humor of M.A.S.H.

A friend gave me the first Twelve graphic novel, which again, had some good ideas about it, but the scene with Rockman was one of those camel/straw moments, so I won't be picking up the new issues.

And thinking about it, I wonder about the wisdom of continuing this series anyway. Check out these numbers on from when the series was coming out regularly and JMS still had the glow of Spider-man and Thor about him...

12/07  Twelve #0 of 12 - 20,218
01/08  Twelve #1 of 12 - 40,199  (+98.8%)
02/08  Twelve #2 of 12 - 32,403  (-19.4%)
03/08  Twelve #3 of 12 - 32,729  ( +1.0%)
04/08  Twelve #4 of 12 - 29,729  ( -9.2%)
05/08  Twelve #5 of 12 - 29,876  ( +0.5%)
06/08  Twelve #6 of 12 - 29,303  ( -1.9%)
07/08  ---
08/08  Twelve #7 of 12 - 27,585  ( -5.9%)

Here is the sales numbers on The Twelve Spearhead

12 Spearhead 13540

Spearhead was a single issue spin off that came out May 2010. It was written by Twelve artist Chris Weston, whose artwork on the series has been great the entire time and proved to be an excellent writer on this one shot.

If you average out the last issue of The Twelve and Spearhead, you get 20K - which some people are calling Marvel's new cancellation point. Are retailers going to do that math? Or will they go check back on their old orders of the series to see how many they sold 4 years ago? Probably not. It's just a very different marketplace now. Today, The Twelve has to deal with readers that are a little bit disenchanted with JMS and a lotta bit more interested in the DC 52. Still, for some reason, Marvel felt like revisiting the Twelve was a better bet than continuing Alpha Flight. Go figure.

Anway, with all that said, today I'm revisiting another team up tale from the Golden Age: Prize Comics 24 which features the Prize heroes (Yank and Doodle, Green Lama, Doctor Frost and the Black Owl) vs Frankenstein.

[ Prize Comics 24 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

10 Things About: Giant-Size Spider-Man 2

You gotta love those Giant-Size Marvel comics! Check out the first time Spider-man teamed up with Shang - Chi, Master of Kung Fu!

1. Hello Karate Kraze! Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting back in the 70’s weren’t they? That was a special time when martial arts still had this cool factor about them. During the 80’s and 90’s, with the overuse of Ninjas in every comic, martial arts became less of a neat character attribute and more of clichéd afterthought.

2. Ross Andru – we miss you! One of Marvel’s workhorses, I don’t think  Ross Andru has really gotten the recognition for his work on Spider-man in the 70’s.  Check out how well the action and storytelling unfolds on this page.

3. Bronze Age Fu Manchu While I’ve always liked the idea of Fu Manchu in the Marvel universe, he never seemed to be as much of a mover and shaker as Dr. Doom or The Mandarin. He was more on the level of Kingpin in that his appearances were usually confined to the pages of Master of Kung Fu. Still, it's cool to see him here.

4. Shang – Chi’s costume When using characters with martial arts skills, artists have the challenge of having to find a way to make the classic Gi interesting on a comic book page. Sometimes, you end up with less than interesting costumes (like Karate Kid’s first uniform.) Not so with Shang-Chi’s costume. The use of red and yellow make it stand out while still keeping it from looking too much like a superhero costume.

5. Chapter Two – Cross and Double Cross Remember when comics used to have chapters in them? That was great because dividing a story into chapters forces the writer to have something happen in each chapter. You can bet a comics not going to be a slow decompressed multi-issue snoozer when it’s divided into 3 chapters in one issue. 

6. Shang Chi vs Spider-Man Starting on page 15 till page 20 we get 5 pages of awesomely choreographed superhero fight scenes as only the bronze age could do it! Both Len Wein and Ross Andru outdid themselves here with this fight scene. And for those of you keeping track, this is the THIRD fight scene we’ve had in this comic so far! Imagine THAT in today’s slow moving, talking head comics. Even when modern comics do have a lot of fight scenes they have devolved to using generic ninjas and robots most of the time.

7. Chapter 3 – The Deadly FEET of Kung Fu Observe out the fancy footwork on this page. Of course our heroes realize they need to team up to defeat Fu Manchu. Together they storm his inner sanctum which leads us to our 4th fight scene in the comic.

8. The Imposing Figure of Black Jack Tarr! This is a guy who is really needs his own mini-series!

Wikipedia has a full rundown on him: but he’s essentially a sort of Dum Dum Dugan for Denis Nayland Smith’s Nick Fury. Smith is straight from the Fu Manchu series but Tarr was created for the Marvel series to provide a colorful supporting character.  He apparently appeared recently in something called Ultimate Human by Warren Ellis, but since my eyes bleed dark ooze anytime I read anything written by Warren Ellis of late, I avoided it.

9. Falling Down! More evidence that Ross Andru was the man. Notice the interesting use of perspective in the side panel.

10. Fu Man Who? Something intrinsic to the Bronze Age is that moment when characters sort of get shook up by some revelation that what they thought was a fictional world or character is indeed a real one (Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, Captain Marvel) Here Spider-Man deals with is post-modern existential dilemma when he discovers he shares the same universe (for now at least) as Fu Manchu.

And so ends another great Bronze Age classic!
Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's Pierre Been Up To Lately?

I asked Pierre what he's been up to while I've been busy on other projects and this is what he said:

A couple of weeks ago, we had a screening where we saw on the big screen a few scenes of an animated 3D movie with them 3D glasses that I worked on last spring. Although I fail to see the appeal of seeing movies in 3D, the movie should look nice visually, and I really liked the music. But there is still a lot of animation and post production work to do. So we will have to wait and see for the final look of the film.

This will be my second feature film. Hopefully, it will have more success than the first film I worked on (Heavy Metal 2000).  ;)

Sadly, I can’t really talk about it yet. I don’t know when the film will be in theatres yet. It will be in theatres very late 2012 at the earliest, but odds are that it will be released in 2013.

But one project that I can talk about, is some comic book work that I did recently. It’s a short story for some horror anthology that was released around the time of the All Hallow’s Eve. ;)

But it is in an arcane language, so sadly for most of our Flashback Universe readers, you guys may have a tough time reading it. ;)

You can see the cover here;

And if you click on the cover, you will see 3 pages from the story that I drew.  It is a nice short story that has some fun moments.

I always find it strange, because when I think of my style, the last thing I think of is “horror”. But this is the second time I get asked to work on some horror comic, so maybe there is something that I don’t see???  ;)

There should be a second issue in December. I will give you guys more info when I can. I also did a Commander X pin-up that you should be able to see also in December.

Commander X is the type of project fans of the Flashback Universe will enjoy! You can get more info here:

Being asked to make the Commander X pin-up made more sense to me since it had a very retro feel/flavour to it. Although Jay Piscopo does some nice work on his own, . So I fail to see why he needed me.

But what can I say, I never say no when people offer me money.  ;)

But seriously, it was a fun pin-up to make.  Can’t wait for you guys to get the chance to see it.

And to end this blog on a Halloween related note, for Halloween this year, I decided to try out the movie Twilight, to see what all that “Twilight” phenomenon/craze is all about.

And that picture that I saw on Facebook pretty much sums up my thoughts on the film;

Hope you guys had a fun Halloween. ;)

Until next time.  ;)


Monday, November 7, 2011

The New King of Comic Sales

What a difference a few days makes. Last Monday, I was talking about Marvel's Day and Date Digital announcement. I thought that news would keep Marvel in the spotlight of the comics blogoverse for a while, but Friday DC stole Marvel's thunder when Bleeding Cool revealed  DC outsold Marvel for October.

And for the most part, the comments (over a hundred so far) are very positive and congratulatory to DC. It seems that most readers are glad to see DC succeeding with the relaunch.

Some naysayers are talking about how things will return to normal (ie: Marvel going back to the top sales spot) in a few months, but I wouldn't count on that.

For one thing there are quite a number of new DC projects coming up in the 2nd wave of the relaunch including these titles:
  • A new JSA book
  • A new Captain Marvel book (spinning out of the Justice League back up series)
  • Watchmen 2
  • Grant Morrison's Multiversity
  • Batman Inc. (Which I was really enjoying until the hiatus)
  • World's Finest (or some Batman/Superman team up book)
With those titles on the horizon and the current line doing so well, I think Marvel will have a hard time dethroning the new king of the charts. Marvel's usual strategy of countering with new versions of Avengers, Spider-man and X-men have all been played out. This current overturning actually takes place in a month when Marvel released their new Wolverine and the X-men 1, which came in behind Incredible Hulk 1 (which just goes to show how much clout that franchise has lost due to overexposure.)

Here is a chart of the top ten for October. Looking at it, the number of $3.99 comics is a little dismaying. Also, if you know someone who paid $4.99 for Fear Itself 7, please give them my sympathy. :D I've heard nothing but disappointment about that series. It appears to have been a Toy Pitch gone bad.

2 BATMAN #2 $2.99 DC
5 FLASH #2 $2.99 DC
6 DETECTIVE COMICS #2 [*] $2.99 DC
9 FEAR ITSELF #7 $4.99 MAR
10 SUPERMAN #2 [*] $2.99 DC

With that, I present today's Free Comic, featuring another sort of King. The Boy King! from Clue Comics 5

- Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Comments on Marvel Going Digital Day & Date

Yesterday, Gizmodo (a tech blog I follow in my google feeds) had an exclusive article that broke the news that by April, Marvel will make all of their published superhero titles available digitally on the same day as they hit the retail shops. 

Now, to be honest, I suspect this move doesn't surprise anyone who is a regular reader of this blog. Once DC did it, we all sort of knew it would only be a matter of time (months) before Marvel followed step.

What I've found the most interesting are some of the comments from comic fans on the news. For the most part readers seem to be very happy with this news (as expected) and the usual Greek chorus of people screaming they will never read digital comics seems no where in sight. There are a few people who have posted some interesting thoughts:

From the iFanboy comments:

WeaklyRoll says:
[ What's next? A ] digital only series...?

gobo says:
Now hopefully Marvel will start doing a wait one 1 month/$1 off price drop

Jdudley says:
Marvel really needs to pull the “drop prices after 4 weeks” move. As of now, it’s completely unclear when the digital price of marvel’s books will go down to 1.99.

I have to imagine it’s a man-hour issue. Going full-line day and date requires quite a few new employees and/or shifting job descriptions. I’d wager that the recent staff layoffs at marvel have something to do with this momentum shift. Still, this is a good milestone for digital. I think that the digital marketplace will HAVE to ultimately force marvel to smaller price points, but that won’t necessarily happen immediately. Once the company is settled into digital releases and slightly less reliance on the sales of increasingly expensive printing… the prices really SHOULD come down.

Nerd_Raaage says:
“…now Marvel have crunched the numbers, and protection of the direct market has given way to desire for more revenue.”

It’s not Marvels responsibility to protect the direct market. Nor do I believe that it was ever their intent. Their responsibility is to maintain their existence and profitability. The best way for them to do that is to maintain their customer base by providing a quality product, at a reasonable price, in the manor that best meets the needs of the customer.

I fully support small businesses…when the relationship is mutually beneficial. The closest ‘local’ comic shop is a two hour drive for me. There is no benefit for me in making that drive to purchase comics or to pay extra and wait a few days on a delivery service.

My thoughts are, yeah, the next step will be a Digital Only comic much like how Marvel had three Direct Sales titles back in the 80's (Micronauts, Moon-Knight and Ka-Zar.)

I also think that we will some eventual price competition between both companies in the digital realm. Eventually, someone is going to figure out how to keep track of the stats of  how things are selling on Comixology - or Comixology will offer up the stats themselves.

Finally, I keep seeing people saying it's silly that digital versions are the same price as the paper versions, and while I too doubt the economics involved in production in both areas could result in similar pricing, I don't think $2.99 is too much to pay for a digital version. For one thing, you don't spend any gas getting it. Also, I'm paying a little bit to avoid the disappointment of going to my comic shop and discovering they didn't order enough copies so I wasted a trip.

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pierre Speaks About Thor Books

Today,  Pierre gives us his thoughts on two recent collections of Thor comics

I had fun watching the Thor film when it first came out in theatre. The film was far from perfect,  but it had some fun moments. Whenever I watch it again,  I still get Goosebumps when Odin whispers to the hammer “Whoever holds this hammer,  . If he be worthy,  shall possess the power of Thor”. That or Loki calling Thor “The Mighty Thor” with all the disdain and venom in his tone that only Loki could manage. Those have to be my favourite moments in the Thor film.

So while I had a good time watching that film,  I can’t say that I am a big Thor fan. I enjoyed his appearances in the Avengers comics,  I liked the character well enough,  but I rarely bought the Thor comic itself. So I pretty much ignored the Ultimate Thor comic when it first was released.

Not being one to usually buy a Thor comic, and not much of an Ultimate fan, I saw little reason to even check this comic out when it was first released. But then some time ago,  I saw the Ultimate Thor HC for $12.99 CAN. So I figured,  “What the heck,  at worse I will have some Pacheco artwork to look at”.

I usually am a fan of Pacheco’s artwork, but was not too thrilled since he has been back at Marvel on the Ultimates. But I kind of like some of Hickman’s work as well, so I was curious to check out how well they worked together.

And I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

Despite knowing where the story leads to, there were a few nice twists and turns that I did not expect. There were a few nice surprises in this tale that I enjoyed. And I liked Pacheco’s artwork despite his attempt to be Bryan Hitch sometimes. I prefer by far the approach he had when he was drawing Avengers Forever.

But overall, it was worth it. I would never have paid its original cover price of $19.99 US/$22.50 CAN. But at $12.99 CAN?? It was worth it. To me, the Ultimate Thor HAS to be the one we find in The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema.

Yes there were some great Thor comics by Kirby,  by John Buscema/Tom Palmer,  or by DeFalco and Frenz/Breeding,  but the Omnibus by Simonson and Sal Buscema HAS to be the ultimate tale with the character.

No, not the ultimate tale,  that is wrong somehow,  the Ultimate SAGA with the character. Heck they even did a pretty kick-ass job recoloring the comics for the Omnibus itself.

I wonder why that omnibus was recolored and not the Wolverine Omnibus or the Secret Wars Omnibus  or the upcoming John Byrne FF Omnibus?? Although they have recolored the upcoming X-Men Omnibus by Claremont and Jim Lee.

So will Marvel start to recolor all of their Omnibuses?? Or will it be a once in a while occasion??

When Simonson started his Thor run many winters ago,  I was not too crazy about it. I thought his work looked weird, especially compared to some John Buscema/Tom Palmer Thor comics that came before that. It took me some years to get used to Simonson’s work. Heck it’s only when I first saw some black and white artwork by him in various publications that I started to appreciate the graphic approach that he had in his work.

The same thing happened with Mignola. I had to see some black and white artwork by him before I was charmed by his work and could start to appreciate it.

So I pretty much missed Simonson’s Thor run initially and would only later start to get some TPBs of his work. And only once I got the Balder the Brave Marvel Premiere HC would I realise that Sal Buscema had worked with Walt on this run.

So once the Thor Omnibus by Simonson was announced,  you can be sure that no force on Earth would keep me from getting my hands on it. ;) As you guys probably know by now,  I am a HUGE Sal Buscema fan. So it is a special treat whenever I find some tales by him that I never saw/read before.

But this Omnibus is a wonderful book not only because I was able to read more stories drawn by Sal,  but for many other reasons as well. The new more modern coloring fits well with the artwork from past decades. So each page is beautifully drawn and recolored to have the best of both eras. It includes the first appearance of Beta Ray Thor and the Balder the Brave mini-series.

And there are some nice extras at the end. Some nice character sketches,  some promotional artwork,  and some pin-ups.  It is truly a great book. And it is HUGE!! It is like 100 000 pages thick,  okay,  okay,  it is more like almost 1200 pages,  but that still is a lot of Thor pages. I can tell you,  you will give yourself a tendonitis lifting the darn thing.

So the ONE drawback is that you will need to read this at home on some sort of table. There is no way you can carry this around and read it on the bus,  or read it in the bathroom while doing your business. You will need some proper support to comfortably read it. But each pages, each panel will be 100% worth it.

It is a Mighty book that any Thor fan, any Marvel fan or, heck, any comic fan should own. So if you want to be pleasantly surprised by a recent comic, give a try to the Ultimate Thor. You probably can get the TPB for fairly cheap by now.

But if you want to read a Mighty SAGA of EPIC proportions,  then you MUST read what is truly the Ultimate Thor SAGA in The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Simonson and Sal Buscema. You will not regret it. I guarantee it.

Have a good day.


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