Friday, August 29, 2003

Well, I was hoping to have DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET done for the Polonia Brothers by today, so I could enjoy the long weekend going to Holiday World (voted the cleanest and friendliest park in America, yes even beating out Disney) and then camping with my wife's "kin" down on the Ohio River.

But Wednesday night I went to the Ball State planetarium to see Mars, with hundreds of other people. As it turns out I never got to see Mars, as the line was too long; but it was cool that so many people were there, and cared about it. When I drove home later, I saw it plainly, as strange as an eclipse in the sky.

Then last night I went to see the mighty Ball State vs. Indiana State cross-state football rivalry, the first night game played at the stadium. Ball State is known for having a historically long losing streak, and graduating David Letterman; Indiana State for being pretty bad also, and graduating Larry Bird. There was plenty of festivities and fireworks, as well as muffed punts, footballs bouncing off the uprights, interceptions, fumbles, and on an on. Ball State won, by the way, by not losing. My dad (a BSU grad also) and I had a good time.

But next week I will get back to the grindstone and finish DEMONS. I have two more polishes/rewrites in line to start right after. Quite a time to start a blog, eh?

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Thursday, August 28, 2003

At the library I picked up a collection of interviews from "The Onion A.V. Club" called THE TENACITY OF THE COCKROACH and have been reading one or two a night. People from all across the spectrum from Pam Grier to Murray Langston (the Unknown Comic) to Alan Moore (who confirmed what I have always suspected, that he regretted how THE WATCHMEN changed comics in the 80s). Lots of good stuff there.

A new funk/soul 70s and 80s station which for some mysterious reason I have started getting all the way from Dayton, Ohio, through the magic of the ether. It's really buoyed my spirits lately; how can you be downbeat when you're listening to "Brickhouse," "Rock the Boat," and "The Theme from Shaft" anyway?

WITCHOUSE 3: Very polished horror outing that has a contemporary vibe, a different outlook than the previous films, and a very eye-catching cast (including Debbie Rochon, Tanya Dempsey, Tina Krause). The DVD is brimming with neat extras, as most all of the Tempe DVDs are. Shows what professionalism at all levels can bring to a modest budget. Directed by one of my microcinema faves, J.R. Bookwalter. I have a soft spot for this one as I won it in an on-line contest, but it is also available from the Tempe Video website.

You can talk to me about all of this stuff at

Wednesday, August 27, 2003


VAMPS: Lap-Dancin', Blood-Suckin' vixens cause havoc for hapless patrons at a satanic strip club. Tongue-in-cheek romp has very appealing girls to cover some lapses in production value. Amber Newman fans should build a shrine to this one. Fun for fans of the genre, and if you're going to do vampire stripper movies, do 'em in style. Directed by my pal Mark Burchett and available lots of places, including their b-plus productions web site.

CAGED WOMEN 2: Eye-popping, hard-boiled, bad girls in prison! No-holds-barred entry in the "wronged woman sent to the slammer" genre, with plenty of twists and turns to accompany some sweat-inducing jailhouse scenes. Plenty of fun for fans, with lots of familiar b-movie faces (Lorissa McComas, Nikki Fritz, Deborah Dutch) up and down the cellblock. A solid outing from my old pal (and PAYBACK MAN director) Ivan Rogers.

SHANDRA THE JUNGLE GIRL: One more guilty pleasure, from the "Surrender Cinema" folks. The heartwarming tale of a young woman who just wants to live in peace with nature, but is forced by some strange malady to sex the life out of people. She is brought to civilization by a pair of concerned scientists, who discover that only the power of a three-way can diffuse this strange disorder. Now that's science! Plenty of fun for fans of the genre, lots of nice-looking women, with a brain-searing theme song and an offbeat cameo by cult b-movie director J.R. Bookwalter as a disgruntled strip-club patron.

DC did some great stuff with their short-lived sci-fi imprint HELIX. One of the most impressive entries was MICHAEL MOORCOCK'S MULTIVERSE, written by none other than the master himself, Michael Moorcock, creator of Elric, Hawkmoon, Count Brass, Corum, Jerry Cornelius, and countless other variations of his "Eternal Champion" theme. Elric and his soul-stealing sword Stormbringer is probably one of the more famous fantasy heroes of the 60s and 70s. Moorcock brought Elric and a host of other characters along for this twelve-part miniseries.
Each issue is split into three stories. "Moonbeams and Roses" is the first segment, and I have no idea what the hell it is about, except Michael Moorcock himself is a character, and is playing a game at some sort of "table of fate". Complete hoogly-boogly. That's too bad, because it has butt-kicking art by Walt Simonson, of all people. The second segment is "The Transtemporal Detective", which also has good art and sort of a Sherlock Holmes flair. Our hero rather casually averts World War II early on, rewriting history(!), then starts in on an epic quest. This rather neatly dovetails into "Duke Elric", the third segment, which is just classic Elric sword-and-sorcery action the whole way.
I found myself skimming "Moonbeams", enjoying "Detective", and grooving on "Elric". One neat thing about this book is that the storylines start to blend and merge as the issues progress, sharing variations of characters between all of them. A real overlooked gem for comics and Moorcock fans.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I'm hard at work at DEMON ON A DEAD END STREET for the Polonia Brothers. A writer/artist with a mysterious illness hires a free-thinking assistant with a troubled past. Their work begins to heal each other, but an evil presence is moving inexorably towards them.

UNDERBELLY: Nerd-noir thriller has hapless college student getting mixed up with dim-witted thugs, jut-jawed gangsters, and plenty of hard-hearted honeys. Witty film with solid production values and a cool vibe. Directed by my pal Joe Sherlock and available from his DR. SQUID website.

NEVADA FROM DC/Vertigo. A sophisticated, complex story of the adventures of a Las Vegas showgirl, her pet ostrich, a drunken pan-dimensional hero, and a villian with something very wrong with his head. Written by one of my favorite writers, Steve (DEFENDERS) Gerber; the art, by Phil Winslade, has some of the best energy I've seen in a long time.
But there's more to the book than just good plotting and art. It's completely fresh, in its presentation (using text pages and other elements to break free of traditional styles)and in its perspectives. It's an honest original, not easily cast into one genre or another. It's not your ususal VERTIGO dreary fishook-in-the-eye watercolor gloom, but it's no teen spandex epic either.

You can write to me about this stuff at

Monday, August 25, 2003

Kind of a long weekend; a palpable sense of dread has been hanging overhead since I saw a black dog killed by the side of the road on my way to work the other day. I had to work a lot of overtime this weekend, but I got my THE PAYBACK MAN rewrite done, so maybe the fugue starting to lift a little. I think so.

I finished THE PAYBACK MAN for director Ivan Rogers and started back up on DEMON ON A DEAD END STREET for Polonia Brothers Entertainment. Happy with both.

I finished WAR MEMORIALS by Clint McCown and started THE GANGSTER WE ARE ALL LOOKING FOR, a pointed and poignant autobiographical tale by Le Thi Diem Thuy, about a young woman and her extended family who more or less wash up in the U.S. from VietNam in the late 70s. I've also been reading through some CrossGen comics, notable among them the epic fantasy stories SCION and SOJOURN. Great reads and art.

I've been listening to Walter Cronkite's choices for the best radio shows of the 20th Century. I've always liked LIGHTS OUT and THE SHADOW and INNER SANCTUM but was surprised how much I liked YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR. I also bought and listened to Johnny Cash's new album. Really searing and heartfelt.

FREAK from director Tyler Tharpe. FREAK is a good midwestern chiller, a tidy little thriller with a "Halloween"-type vibe that has masked killer escaping from inattentive hospital attendant and going on a modest killing spree through a bleak midwestern landscape. Nice cinematography, good use of sound, and solid performances (especially from the two leads, one being a kid) make it a good rental from Hollywood Video. It was directed by Ball State University alum Tyler Tharpe, who just graduated when I started working here, so we were two ships that passed in the night.

THE FACTOR from About Comics. The Factor is a costumed vigilante, but the description kind of trails off after that. Why? Because The Factor isn't really the star of his own comic; instead, the reader sees his actions through the eyes of a myriad group of other characters in a number of different situations.
The book is more about the impact a costumed hero would have on the world, rather than the exploits of the hero himself (or herself, possibly). Stories are told from the point of view of criminals contemplating crimes and of a child playing with a Factor toy, from newsmen to cops to everyday people. It is a fresh idea (more rare all the time in comics) well-executed by my on-line pal Nat Gertler and a bevy of talented artists, some more famous and some who deserve to be more well-known. I have gone back to re-read this book several times, and have passed it around to several friends, even some folks who aren't that in to comics. Solid work, and I look forward to more of the same from Nat and About Comics.

If you want to talk about any of this stuff, I'm at

Friday, August 22, 2003

Earlier this week I posted my thoughts on this year's GenCon. As I'm pretty busy today, and will be off-line all weekend, I thought I would share some lengthy thoughts from two previsous GenCons today, that will hold you over all weekend.


WEDNESDAY: Twas me and me three droogs--my brother Eric, Troy "the Caveman" Holaday and Bart "Barticus Rex" Amburn on the road to GenCon, the biggest gaming convention in the entire multiverse. After a long day's journey into night we arrive at the University of Milwaukee at Wisconsin in Sandburgh Hall, the cheapest digs but surprisingly pleasant. We had an upper story lake front dorm with lots of conveniences including a private bath, for around 20 bucks a night. To warm up for several intense days of gaming we played a few quick modules of D and D from an old Dungeon magazine and a round of a new card game called Legend of the Five Rings, quite enjoyable, which I was beaten soundly by the Caveman.
THURSDAY: An early call for the first gaming session at 8 a.m.--the sessions run a rigorous 8-12, 12-4, 4-8, 8-12, and you can play any or all a day. I started with a solid D and D adventure run by Louis Arenas, who had a good DMing style which was a lot of fun. At the end, to my surprise, the 8 players in the session were supposed to vote on who the best player was to win a $5 gift certificate, and I was selected. My calls of "For Dwarven Honor!" must have paid off. Next at noon was the highlight of the trip--the chance to play a celebrity slot with Richard Baker, the co-creator of the new Alternity game from TSR. I won a chance to play from answering a sci-fi quiz in the pre-registration book. Alternity is an interesting sci-fi universe with an excellent dice system. It has a lot of potential and I feel it will be the next hot thing, although not to eclipse D and D. He ran "Assault on Bug Central", which had a real Starship Troopers feel to it, but the game can be adapted to any universe. I played with some really good experienced gamers and enjoyed it immensely. A jolly old guy stood and watched for a while, chatting with us, and when I casually glanced at his nametag I saw it was Gary Gygax. Gulp! I guess that made my next session, a 4 p.m. D and D game, a little disappointing. It featured some of the dreaded gaming caricatures, the smart-a DM, the rules lawyer, and a nihilistic "Vampire Kid". Important safety tip--never play 12 hours straight! I was, to say the least, slightly woozy by that evening.
FRIDAY: Missed a chance to get into a Call of Cthulhu game when I got to talking to another dude named John Dalton who was running a game that ended up not making. To my great misfortune it gave me the chance to go the exhibit hall,a place of dark yearnings and drooling excess. A shrine to the pagan god of impulse buying keeps the eternal flame at the entrance to the teeming-to-the-gills floor, where literally everything your shriveled heart desires is available. The night before, I had laughed at the Caveman, who appeared glassy-eyed and white-knuckled with armloads of booty from the exhibit hall, and soon I was choking on that bitter laughter. The death toll: I bought 52 miniatures, a Legends of the Five Rings starter deck, a series of "Pulp Dungeons" adventures, an old "Gamma World" boxed game system, a special GenCon-only Alternity rulesbook, several back issues of Dungeon magazine, and a stack of old Phantom Stranger and Gold Key Turok comics.But what I got in free stuff was tenfold; starter decks for Monumental Overpower, X-Files, a neat new Cthulhu game called Mythos, given away for playtesting, free comics and magazines, boosters for Mythos and Legends of the Five Rings, all kinds of dice, and more. The hot items were Shadowrun starter decks (free for the playtesting) and Legends of the Five Rings (slightly stingier with free booster packs). The exhibit hall is interesting--it's where you see the weirdest people, the fringe people, the ones dressed in vampire garb or chain-mail bras, and the like. Wise hard-core gamers shun the place as the Place Where Time Stands Still. In fact, the next thing I knew it was six p.m., and time to grab a bite to eat before playing the 8 p.m. slot with the Caveman. I played "Gamma World", a classic post-apocalyptic TSR game from the 80s. The DM, Kris Reeves, had a good adventure and we had a lot of fun. This game really should have never died. I tied for best gamer honors, diced for the $5, and lost.
SATURDAY: Hit a TSR "Pinnacle Event" at 8 a.m. with my brother--"Rumble in Mecca", a 60 person dungeon adventure. It was chaotic but a lot of fun. I unwisely left my brother unattended at the exhibit hall and went to play another D and D game, which I left halfway though because half of the players started getting a side game up that excluded several of us. It was the only bad experience I had gaming, and the worst of it was it left me free to wander the exhibit hall and auction area some more. But at 8 p.m. I came to my senses and joined a session of another classic game, "Champions", with my brother and Barticus Rex. We were all a bit punchy by this time but my character "Explodo" was well received and I split gaming honors with Bart. He had won four prizes, I had won or tied three, and the Caveman finished second three times. Not a bad showing for the Muncie crowd!
SUNDAY: Sunday was hard; after several days on three hours of sleep and sixteen to twenty hour days of gaming, I needed an IV drip.I was flat out of steam. But my brother, younger and more hearty, got in a few good sessions, giving high marks to the new horror-western game Deadlands and the new Babylon 5 RPG. Tired but happy, we headed for America's heartland once more.
THE REAL SKINNY: GenCon has something for everyone. I stayed with RPGs, but people into card games could go that route, or playing military/miniature battles, like our pal Caveman did. Or, if you haven't maxed out your credit cards, you could do the exhibit floor the whole time and just playtest stuff. We are all planning to go next year, and will probably drag some more compatriots along. We're even threatening to DM some games, so be warned! And to its real credit, I wasn't even burned out--I came home and played about 12 hours of D and D with my son and his friend Ted. Already we're dreaming about next year....


Although not fully recuperated from Chicago, the Back Issue crew was at it again, on their way to GenCon 1998. The lineup this year consisted of last year's veterans John, John's brother Eric, Troy "The Caveman" Holaday, and relative gaming rookie, Doug. Barticus Rex was serving this great nation of ours in the reserves, and could not attend this year's festivities. Hopefully, they made him put on his pants! A seven hour preparation lecture on the way to Milwaukee still could not prepare Doug for the sights, smells, and tastes of the world's largest Gaming Convention.
Wednesday: After a hasty 7 hour jaunt North, the boys made it to the convention center just ahead of the 10:00 pm cutoff for early registration. Troy, Eric, and John were furious to find out that combined they had gotten the same number of events as Doug who cashed in at a whopping ten pre-registration tickets. Biggest disappointment for John: didn't get into one Alternity event! For The Caveman: where are the miniatures? Nevertheless, it was back to the University of Wisconsin Dorms to rest up and prepare for the day ahead.
Thursday: The Boys managed to find their way back to the convention center early Thursday Morning, just in time to make their 8:00 am events. Doug found himself at the mercy of an even bigger comics fan than himself, as he played the Red Bee in an all Golden Age version of the old DC Heroes RPG. Alongside other Golden Age stalwarts Airwave, The Whip, Captain Triumph, and others, Doug was voted the best gamer of the round. Doug started off the Indiana contingency that won a whopping number of gaming awards last year. John and The Caveman sat in on a sequel to last year's Gamma World adventure, where the mutated creatures had to escort a ship across the remains of Lake Michigan. This was run by Kris Reeves, a great GM who ran the Gamma World event the gang played last year. Later in the day the crew found themselves trapped in the black hole known as the Exhibition Hall, where The Caveman reverted to the miniature hound of last year, Eric purchased the new Marvel RPG by TSR, and John playtested several new games from Legends, TSR, and Wizards of the Coast. His efforts garnered him a free Battletech Starter Deck which he flaunted to the others, daring them to playtest and then spin the Wizard's Wheel on the Exhibition Floor. This was a dare he would later regret. But there were no regrets on the dance floor, as They Might Be Giants braved the Milwaukee deluges and put on a strong free GENCON-only concert that night. Then it was back to the room, and of course, a round of Marvel RPG. It was The Thing (Caveman), Nick Fury (Doug, of course) and Power Man (John, of course) taking on Rhino and SuperSkrull (Eric). Villians win!
Friday: Learning from the mistakes of last year, John and the others decided not to game straight through from dusk till dawn. Arriving at the convention center at 10:00 am, John and The Caveman played a miniatures chariot race game called Circus Maximus, while Doug hurried off to play an officially sanctioned introduction of the Marvel Superheroes RPG by TSR. John also tried out a fun Deadlands module run by Pinnacle Games, and won a "Best Gamer" award that round. Unfortunately, the prizes weren't what they were last year; instead of a $5 certificate to spend anywhere, it was a $5 Deadlands certificate. C'est la vie--but still better than the "Thanks for Playing" certificate Doug got for his stellar turn as the Red Bee! When John and Doug met again on the exhibition floor, fate intervened.
Both playtesting on the WoTC floor, Doug chose to take his five stamps and get in line to spin. John decided to take a crack at one other game, so he was a good dozen people behind Doug when he got in line. Upon Doug's arrival on the stage, his goal, with five spins, was to match John and land either a free starter deck or a ten dollar gift certificate. After four spins, the best he had hit was a five dollar certificate, and he was tempted to walk with it, for fear a final spin would land him a booby prize. John egged him on however, telling him to go for the glory, ad a final spin landed Doug on the jackpot--a five hundred dollar chest of virtually everything WoTC, TSR and L5R make.
The challenge had not yet ended, however, as two of three trivia questions had to be answered. Doug, being the novice gamer that he was, begged the host to have mercy and got Comic Book trivia instead of Dungeons and Dragons, and eventually won the chest. His three questions: What character disappeared for a long time in the 70s because of copyright issues, and recently resurfaced with his family; what was Perry White's catchphrase in the comics; and what character's secret origin involved eating a radioactive carrot. After that insanity had subsided, John finally approached the wheel himself. Fending off jeers and insults from the crowd after passing on a ten dollar certificate, John miraculously hit the jackpot as well. The host was unkind however, and refused to allow two chests to go to home in the same van, making John's trivia extremely difficult. His questions: What game was played instead of poker on The New Odd Couple with an all-female cast; what was Kirk and Spock's secret code that referred to 3D chess; and what game did Bart Simpson shoplift on The Simpsons. This resulted in chaos unbounded on the stage, as John nearly had to be hauled off by security guards that rivaled Jerry Springer's!
Saturday: Another 8:00 am start for the crew, as John, Doug, and Troy headed once again for the miniatures floor to play another chariot race game called Circus Imperium, where 5 teams piled in the same chariot, with The Caveman and his gladiator coming out on top to edge out Doug and some other cheating schmuck and win the race. Later in the day the guys met for another round of Marvel Superheroes, this one played out with Toy Biz action figures. John was Dragon Man, Doug was The Leader, Eric The Black Cat, The Caveman was Rhino. The boys would have had more fun, except for a pain-in-the-butt "rules lawyer" who almost drove Doug and John to homicide. Troy came close to winning, but the real victory was knocking out the weasel-guy's Mandarin. That evening, a variant of Axis and Allies was playtested by all where the Russians and Iraqis take on the Saudis, Iranians, and Turks. Two genial high school kids from Milwaukee dealt out the whup-a to A&A vets Doug, Eric, and John. Still a great variant of a great game. With cries of "Pour it on!" the boys went back to UWM and cranked up a Battletech free-for-all to cap their last night, until Doug dropped over unconscious.
Sunday: With Caveman's immortal words, "If we eat less food, we can buy more miniatures!" echoing in their ears, the boys went to GENCON to take one last look around the convention floor. As Battletech was the hit of the year, John looked for some rules and a used Axis and Allies game, but had no luck. Eric went wild on Dragon Dice. Doug, John's co-dependent, convinced him to split an incredibly cheap box of Wildstorms CCG booster packs. The Caveman, literally down to about $2.50, looked forlornly on. The booty call: John and Doug bought so many 3 for a dollar comics, that they guy quit selling them after one day (His picture is on the GENCON web page, looking a little dismayed, probably after we pillaged all of his Defenders and Dr. Strange comics). John really liked the Battletech CCG and the Cheapass Games company, especially Kill Dr. Lucky. He also bought Deep Space Nine, Star Wars and Babylon 5 cards and lots of miniatures. John wanted to buy Legend of the Burning Sands but realized nobody would ever play it with him. Doug loaded up on more CCGs than he should of, icluding two expansions of the Echelons WWII comabt game, some choice OverPower and WildStorms tidbits, and a ton of dirt-cheap Sim City cards (plus the aforementioned 3/$1.00 comics). Eric grooved on Dragon Dice and Star Wars cards. The Caveman drooled over miniatures and the dice game Chaos Progenitus. The gang loaded up on a lot of different things this year, really showing the breadth and depth of gaming. Reviews of the first year of GENCON under Wizards of the Coast, the Bill Gates of gaming? More corporate, for better or worse. Less independents and more companies running their own games, for better and worse. Some confusion, and it was harder to get into big events this year. More hubba hubba with Jeri Ryan and Claudia Christian hanging around. Overall, we'll give it another chance.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I'm almost 37; I don't know if that's old or young or in between. But I felt kinda old on the way to work today when I found myself singing "Crackling Rose" by Neil Diamond pretty loudly. I think I first started thinking about being old when the barber shaved my earlobes when I got a haircut last week.

I still am not used to going to a barber. My mom was a hairdresser and always cut my hair until she retired a few months ago. I was eager to go to the barber, as that was one of two things I wanted to do grooming-wise growing up. The other was get my hair cut by one of the cute girls who would sit outside the dorms with a kitchen chair and charge five bucks or so. Now that I'm married the latter is definitely out. But now I've done the former, straight razor and all. There are even Sports Illustrated magazines there, but no nudie mags or comics like you see in old movies, so I missed that era. But it's still worth going.

Now I feel like I've written a real blog.

Here are some other thoughts:

HALL OF MIRRORS: I borrowed this one from my pal Jason, and it's a real knockout. Noirish microcinema thriller has gambling addict getting involved in byzantine scheme involving counterfeit money and a two-faced (or three- or four- faced) femme fatale. Great plotting, interesting location shooting, solid talent, with no compromises made, or apologies for, a low budget. One to aspire to.

Here's my thoughts on a bunch of comics left by my pal Dave when he bugged out for San Francisco. He's back now, but hasn't given me any new comics.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: This book has been around so long that you have to qualify the time period; these were from the late 70s-early 80s issues. My pal Dave swears by them, but in my opinion the series seems to be wheezing by this time. You've got Polar Boy and Element Lad leading the group, and that should tell you something right there. Plus, what ever happened to Tellus and Quisling? Dead, I hope. Not exactly the classic line-up. There's a reboot in its future, and it smells like it. Sorry, Dave.

JUSTICE MACHINE: A much better series from roughly the same time period, also left by Dave upon his exodus from America's Heartland. A government hero squad on a parallel Earth called "Georwell" begins to question its orders, so they get branded traitors and booted off to a real dump--our own planet. Great characterization, with a soft-hearted big guy, a drug-addled speedster, a weasel with kharma powers, and several other unique characters. Deftly handled by Tony Isabella early on, and not quite so deftly by Doug Murray later, with art by creator Mike Gustovich throughout. Worth digging out of the back of the back issue bin. Or, hopefully, Dave will leave some with you someday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Here's some odds and ends for today.

A rewrite of an urban action script, THE PAYBACK MAN, for director Ivan Rogers; and some work for Polonia Brothers Entertainment, who just began work on a four-feature direct-to-video agreement to complete over the next year. I have already polished over RAZORTEETH, about some people full of problems and a lake full of pirahna; and have started on a solo writing assignment for them, DEMON ON A DEAD END STREET. I will be polishing/rewriting the other two features at some point as well.

I've been reading a good novel called WAR MEMORIALS, by Clint McCown, about a southern man's midlife crisis. He was the leader of a writer's workshop my wife went to this summer, so I thought I'd see what he was all about. An entertaining, philosophical read. I also have a stack of HAWKMAN comics from my pal Doug; it's the new James Robinson (of STARMAN fame) relaunch, and if you liked STARMAN you'll like this one, though sometimes the similiarities are a bit alarming. I also have THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE, a 50s-style sci-fi epic with 70s sensibilities, which I put down for a bit but will pick back up at some point.

I commute an hour a day, so I listen to a lot of books on tape. I just finished THE SMILE ON THE FACE OF THE TIGER by Loren Estleman; he writes a lot of hard-boiled Detroit-area detective novels, full of snappy patter and bare-knuckled action. This one is about a pulp novelist who is trying to make a comeback, but abruptly hangs himself. Or does he? Estleman's love for the pulp era comes across even more strongly in this outing.

My pal Jason loaned me the microcinema opus HARDCORE POISONED EYES, and that thing really got under my skin. Three young women with different backgrounds and agendas spend a weekend at a remote cabin that was the scene of one of the women's grandfather's death a few years before. One ill-conceived drunken phone call later and the women are in for a long night of soul-searching mixed with stone terror. A hearty heapin' of Catholic guilt along with very good performances and production values add up to a solid package.

CHASE, from DC Comics, is a somewhat recently defunct comic series that I bought in its entirety off of ebay.
The Suicide Squad, the Rocket Reds becoming the Russian mafaia, the return of Green Lantern's cousin Air Wave and Infinity Inc's Mr. Bones--It's hard to believe that Chase didn't last. But there's today's market for you--just keep the shelves stocked with mutants and demons, and everything's hunky-dory. Anyway, Chase is a new agent with the Department of Extranormal Affairs, whose main reason for existence is to keep an eye on all of those pesky
supervillians--and superheroes, for that matter--running around causing trouble.
Chase's encounters with a mixed bag of characters is interesting, but her backstory is even more so--she seems to be supressing some superpowers of her own, possibly because her father was a costumed hero called Acro-Bat from the "Justice Experience" (a new group created for the series, I think, but quite seamlessly introduced) who was killed when she was a child.
I wish this book had been given a chance to play itself out, because there were many interesting plot threads left dangling, and lots of interesting avenues to explore. I've noted that already the DEO and its head, the rhyme-spouting Mr. Bones, have started appearing elsewhere. I think it's a credit to D. Curtis Johnson and the other creators that their themes are being incorporated elsewhere. And Brian Michael Bendis' book ALIAS owes it no small favor. Worth looking for.

KARATE KID, from DC Comics. Not the Karate Kid of the movies, but an older, worse one. This is the guy that was in the Legion of Super-Heroes, and traveled back in time to chill out in the 70s for a while. I can't decide which is worse--70s kung fu comics or 70s blaxploitation comics. But I'm irresistably drawn to both. I was given a huge stack of these once upon a time by my pal Doug (at least I thought he was my friend). I say a huge stack, but I think it only ran about a dozen issues. There is some solace in knowing that he gets killed off later (in fact, I think there's been at least two more since then). And how can he avoid it? He and Iron Fist both have a huge stand-up collar attatched to their costumes, convenient for sneaking up behind.

If you want to talk about any of this stuff, I'm at

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I have been told for a while that I should start a blog, and now that I'm looking at this blank screen I'm not sure what to start with.

So here's a little bit from GenCon 2003 in Indianapolis, Indiana, a few short weeks ago:

I drove by the convention center at around 10 a.m. and was stunned to see lines snaking down the block and beyond. I kept thinking, “Don’t let that be the ‘will call’ window!” and thankfully it wasn’t. In fact I waited just a few seconds to pick up my badge and tickets. Later I learned the line for day passes and site events was two to four hours.
I made a beeline for the sales floor, and the first people I saw were Troll Lords Games. They made a nice D&D module I liked called “Lion in the Ropes” and I was shocked to see their very nice products going out the door for $1 a module. They reported that the shift to D&D 3.5 was killing off their distribution. I was commiserating on the one hand while shoveling their modules into my bag with the other.
For better or worse this was not the case throughout the whole sales floor, though many vendors complained that they felt they had been abandoned by the d20 Open License people when they moved to 3.5 so quickly. I mean, there was what, a decade or so between D&D, AD&D, and 3.0? It seems a bit sinister.
I bought a used minigame called “Invasion of the Air Eaters” and a beat-up copy of the Star Wars d20 module “Invasion of Threed” and a pair of AEG pocket modules that were half off as well as another half-off d20 module and a recent issue of “Dugeon” that I had missed. I’m most happy with a photocopied ‘zine-style module I bought off a couple of kids, a guy with long hair and a girl with a shaved head with about 30 piercings between them. I read their module Thursday night and, ya know, I can hardly wait to play it.

My brother Eric and I rolled in around 10 a.m. and I took him on a whirlwind tour of the sales floor, and a few things he might be interested in, including the new HeroClix stuff, the “Spycraft” AEG books, Cheapass Games’ “Ogre” paper dice game, and Atlas Games’ “Nyambe” sourcebook for African d20 adventures.
I played “7th Sea” later in the morning. It’s a cinematic-style swashbuckling game that has a bit of buzz around it. It has a clunky mechanic but was fun enough. I will say this about the d20 empire, they are making a lot of these other mechanics seem redundant.
The day before I had breezed into the “paint and take” miniatures area and slicked up a quick soldier figure. Alarmingly, by the second day of the Con the line for this was about an hour. And several hours’ worth of lines curved back and forth outside to get in. Great for vendors, not so good for attendees.
Later on I played a Con favorite of mine, “Circus Imperium.” It’s a chariot race game that focuses on the, shall we say, more dramatic elements of chariot racing. The bad thing was they combined two tables of people to one larger, more sluggish, race. Bigger is never better at a Con, especially when teaching rules to newbies.
I had good gamers at both sessions but lackluster or indifferent GMs. I wondered again if a lot of these people sign up to run games to get in free, then put in the minimal effort. Overall at the Con, about half the time the GMs weren’t that great. However, in a stroke of great luck, I had no bad players—the legendary Rules Lawyer, the Angst-Ridden Teen, and so on and so forth.

Friday night overlapped into Saturday morning when my son Daniel cracked a radiator on 465. I didn’t get home from trying to bail him out until 4 a.m. and by the time I headed back to Indy to meet a tow truck and a mechanic the next day it would be 4 p.m before I would get back to the Con. Unfortunately I missed a “GURPS Supers” game I wanted to play as well as a “Silver Age Superheroes d20” I was signed up for. But my brother Eric played the Silver Age game, and must have liked it well enough to buy the “Stingy Player’s Guide,” a reduced-size player’s guide. I thought it was a little bold to call the book “Stingy Players” since the regular book clocks in around $40! A “Reasonable Players” or “Budget Players” guide may have been a bit more friendly.
Eric convinced me to stay for a “Real d20” game we had signed up for, even though I was butt-tired. I was glad we did. These guys have done real-world d20 game scenarios for Columbia, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and they all looked pretty cool. I asked them when Iraq, Liberia, and North Korea were coming out. If the Democrats win the next election, these guys are going out of business. We played, and Eric bought, a Columbia game. A good DM and great gamers made this one fun.

Stayed home and read all my stuff, dreaming of worlds to be conquered.

The homebrewed DM with the handmade module has been dying a slow death over the years I’ve gone to GenCon, slowly nudged out by companies running giant clots of their own printed modules, and appeared to be totally dead this year with the absence of the guy who used to run the Gamma World “Silver Star Adventurers” all the time.

Not too many “stars” worth seeing, and all the Star Wars ones were sequestered in a corner, behind curtains.

I think the general atmosphere, parking and dining situations at Indy were much improved, and seemed to be echoed by a lot of people. The down side is that it’s so much bigger, it didn’t look like there were 25,000 people there at any time.

Usually the ratio of nerds to hot girls in chainmail handing out free stuff is more balanced. This year the hot girls, and the free stuff, was an unacceptable smaller ratio to the nerd contingent.

Some things I would have bought if I had the money were that “Somalia” and “Afghanistan” sourcebook, some of the Goodman Games old-school modules, Atlas Games’ “Nymabe” sourcebook, an Oriental Adventures handbook (but I never found one!), and some Spycraft and Modern d20 stuff (but my brother bought me an early birthday present!).

On Saturday I saw groups of people playing their own games off to the sides in hallways and empty rooms, and my heart soared to the sky.