Sunday, March 8, 2009


This is basically my State of the Union address about this blog.

Last week, Kirk of the Weekly Crisis asked me to start contributing to his blog and I responded with something along the lines of "#@&% YEAH!". Kirk runs probably my favorite blog out of the many I read, and to even be asked to contribute to such a popular site is a huge honor for me. Today marks my first entry in the Weekly Crisis, A Look at Female Superheroes

This is the reason why I haven't been posting in my blog a whole lot this past week, the preparations and other things backstage have been keeping me busy. I had initially decided to try to keep updating both blogs, but later decided that it would be a little too much on my schedule. I want to contribute my very best effort into writing, and I felt that spreading it over two blogs would be detrimental to that cause. So from now on, all my comic-related entries (read: rants) will be in the Weekly Crisis.

If you enjoy my comic related writing, you should definitely head over to the Weekly Crisis, where I will be updating at least once a week. Additionally, you will also get to read the weekly comic book reviews by Kirk and the paperback reviews by Eric Rupe, who also just joined the blog.

This blog will also stay around, for all my non-comics related entries. I may also keep posting the Magic cards, haven't really decided yet. The posting schedule is basically "whenever I feel like or have time for", at least I get the handle of writing more and more on a weekly basis.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Magic - Fastball Special

This marks the first card that I have posted that it is not a creature. I really like this card, and I could see people actually using it in gameplay. The downside? Colossus and Wolverine both have Green attributes (will post them some other day), so you would need a Green and Red deck, which is kind of rare and hard to use.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rarely Asked Questions

Today marks the one month anniversary of my blog. It seems only yesterday that I was ranting about Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, yet here I am one month later, having accomplished a lot in a short time (at least with the goals that I had set for myself). And hopefully, there are bright things in the future of the blog. To celebrate this anniversary, I wanted to assemble a F.A.Q. about the blog and myself, even if no one is really asking these questions out loud.

1 - Is your name really Matt Ampersand?

Negative on both accounts. I've used the nickname Matt ever since high school because some of my classmates and my professors could not properly pronounce my real name (Matias). And I stole a play from the Ramones , using a fake last name that is more memorable and interesting.

2 - What's an Ampersand?

It's the symbol that comes up when you press Shift and 7, commonly known as the "and" symbol. More importantly, it is also the name of a character (read: monkey) from Y - The Last Man, one of my favorite comics ever.

3 - What's up with the monkey on the banner up there?

See above, and stop skipping questions!

4 - Why do you write like that?/ What's up with your writing style?

You have my AP English teachers to blame for that. Both of them pushed us very hard to develop our writing, both by teaching us new words (like eddy, it's a centrifugal whirlwind force usually in bodies of water) and by forcing us to write lots of essays. Somewhere along the way, I learned to intuitively and automatically make my writing seem more grandiose: no matter how much teachers deny it, good essays tend to be the longer ones, and that means going into lots of details.

5 - Hey, can you write about *insert topic here*?

I always like to hear suggestions from readers and I always consider them. I write about what I know about, and about the comics I read. Sometimes I won't feel comfortable talking about certain topics because I feel that no matter how much research (read comics or Wiki) I do, I won't properly be able to make interesting points or good arguments. I do read more Marvel than anything else, so the bulk of posts are probably going to be Marvel-related. I always try to keep things as fair and balanced as I can, but don't expect to see a series of essays about the Legion of Superheroes.

6 - Did you design the blog?

No, it is mostly a template (the information is at the bottom) that my wife and I tweaked here and there.

7 - I want to give you a job in the comic writing industry, with lots of cash and a brand new car, where can I contact you?

You can e-mail me at cassandratic at gmail dot com. I also accept all other kinds of email, with the exception of spam and any e-mail from African princes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Magic - The Sentry

I like how this card came out, I think it properly represents the Sentry without taking into account his most recent appearances during Dark Reign (he's seriously gotten hardcore lately). I think it may be a little too expensive though, maybe 1 or 2 mana less or make his attack score higher would make this card more playable?

Lost in Translation

Careful readers probably have picked up on this already, but I do not live in the United States at the moment. I currently reside in the Mediterranean country of Spain, which puts me in a rather awkward position regarding comics and other media. For the most part, I do not like to purchase or read translated material very much because even the best of translations lose something along the way, and in my mind it feels as I am reading or watching a different material altogether. I have had the chance to read some titles both in English and Spanish and there is a noticeable difference in them (at least to me). Luckily through the Internet and a local shop that carries material in English, I can keep up with my comic reading habit. I wanted to talk a little about some of the things that occur with translations, and one very special case that I have not decided what I am going to do about it.

The most obvious problem in translation is the names of superheroes, and the way they decide to translate them are rather uniform. Some characters have the same name as they do in English, such as Thor and Superman (even though this one could easily be translated into "Superhombre"). Of course, not all of them are as straightforward, for example Spider-Man is mostly called just that, but people pronounce it using a Spanish pronunciation (roughly, espeedher man) and Batman is also called by his rightful name, but his alias Bruce Wayne is instead called Bruno Diaz in some Spanish-speaking countries. There are some straightforward translations, such as "Mister Fantastico" instead of Mister Fantastic and "Linterna Verde" for Green Lantern. Some work and some don't, especially when the translation leads to multiple words like Nightwing being "Ala Nocturna" or Hawkeye being "Ojo de Halcón". Additionally, Captain America becomes Capitan America, which is also pretty straightforward, but his nickname instead of being "Cap" is "Capi" which sounds kind of diminutive to me. And finally, there are some cases where whoever translated the comic books took great liberties. Deadpool for example is known as "Masacre" in some countries, and Martian Manhunter is "Detective Marciano". To make matters worse, different countries have different translations. When I was younger I used to watch the 90's X-Men animated series in Argentina (where I'm originally from), Rogue was called "Titania" and Wolverine was "Guepardo" (the literal translation), but here in Spain, the former is known as "Picara" and the latter as "Lobezno" (which translates into Wolf Cub, I have no idea what they call Wolf Cub from New/Young X-Men). Team names also suffer from some of these same problems, like the X-Men called "Hombres X" or "Patrulla X" depending on the country and the Avengers are known as "Los Vengadores" (which makes me wonder what the catchphrase that replaces "Avengers Assemble!" is).

Another problem that I have with translations is the actual interpretation of the text. When you read titles like Spider-Man, Cable and Deadpool, or any other comic that has a big comedic portion to it, puns, jokes and one-liners are greatly lost in translation. I have not read any comics in Spanish featuring the Riddler, but a lot of his riddles are play on words, so I can't imagine those making a lot of sense either. Curses and insults are another problem altogether, where sometimes literal translations end up sounding not as threatening or just downright goofy (I can't imagine what reading a Garth Ennis comic in Spanish would be like). And I do not if it is just me on this one, but when I read a character speaking Spanish, it sounds completely different that the voice I hear in my head than I would if I was reading that comic in English instead.

Aside from also suffering from the above problems, voice translations when it comes to movies and TV series, have a whole new set of problems. First of all (and I have no idea why) apparently there isn't a whole lot of Spanish voice actors because sometimes you are watching a dubbed movie and you will notice it is the same voice actor as something else you have watched previously. Basically every little girl in any movie that is put on TV will have the same voice actor as Lisa from the Simpsons. Other times, actors are given voice overs that do not match the original voice, or a combination with the point I was making earlier, like Jim Carey and Bruce Willis getting the same person doing the voiceover in different movies. And this is where my problem comes in: I want to see the Watchmen movie, which opens next week (March 6th), and has the same name in Spanish. It's odd that it is not translated somehow, and I think the closest translation would be "Vigilantes", and in that case the tag line would be "Quien vigila a los vigilantes?". For some reason, movie theaters here do not show movies in the original languages with subtitles, I would not mind watching it like that. Instead, they opt for completely dubbed movies and as I have stated which I find to be detrimental to the movie. On one hand, I really want to see the movie (which looks absolutely gorgeous visually and appears that it will be very faithful to the original material) the week it opens, and on the other I want to wait for the DVD release, where I would be able to see the finished product as it was intended. Decisions, decisions. What do you, my faithful 15 readers, think I should do about this dilemma?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A New Way

Parts of the Internet comic book community is on fire. The arsonist? Apparently, Peter David. The whole "discussion" (because at this point it has evolved into little more than an Internet fight of epic proportions) is because the Livejournal community of scans_daily, a place where pages of comic books were posted, sometimes in very large quantities, was shut down after David supposedly reported the website to Marvel. You can read his whole entry about it here. I have talked and lauded about David in my recent post about X-Factor, and while I don't personally agree with the notion that access to pirated comics hurt sales (as an aside, it would certainly be very hard to prove if hurts or helps), I certainly agree it is his right to report violations of this kind once he becomes aware of them. While I personally did not visit scans_daily, it seems that what they were doing was in a very grey legal ground, and Livejournal is just trying to avoid a potential lawsuit. Apparently the community was very big and active, so I don't understand why they did not move to their own server, where they would have had more liberties and less worries about something like this happening. Instead of talking about the issue of Internet piracy, which would take a really long time and arrive to no solid conclusion (and maybe alienating readers), I wanted to talk about some of the alternatives that the comic industry could implement in order to avoid matters like these.

One of the biggest draws of scans_daily was that it allowed people to read (partially, apparently) comic books that they would otherwise pay no attention to. The people lamenting the demise of this community are claiming that there are no other ways to check out rare and or not as popular comics. One of the probably most underused methods to check out new comic books is actually very much free: public libraries. Libraries are increasingly carrying more and more paperback, hardcovers, and original graphic novels these days (and even more so for manga). While this obviously depends on the scope and size of your library, it is definitely worth checking out to see what they have. While the local library where I reside now has a shameful collection (it is very small and I do not live in the US, so it is understandable), the one in the city I lived before had full collections of many comics such as (Birds of Prey, Exiles, all the Ultimate books, Daredevil, Sandman, Invincible, Walking Dead, etc.) some of which I had never bothered to check out before (like Fables, Runaways or Jonah Hex, and I actually read Watchmen for the first time from the library). In addition, they had pretty much all of the Essential and Showcase books (those big, black and white ones) so you could easily read up on old stories of classic comic books. While it may take time, libraries will start carrying more and more collection of comic books. Companies (Marvel especially) are getting better at releasing the collection of both new and old comics, which is going to lead to a bigger amount of comic book in libraries, free for everyone to read and discover them. I do not know what kind of deal comic book companies have (if any) with public libraries, and it is not in their (from a marketing perspective) interest to promote readers to check out their books for free.

Then there's the option of online comic books. As it stands now, only Marvel is offering a digital service (more of that in a second), but for all other companies you are mostly out of luck (I read about some applications for the iPhone where you could download comic books to it, but the catalogue was rather small). There is always the option of downloading pirated comics, which is not that hard to do or to find a place where you could do so if one were intent on it. While the legality of it all is questionable, there's no denying that it is a very easy way to discover comic books that readers may not deem worthy of a second glance while they are in their local comic book shop. Marvel's digital service sounded like a good idea at first, but sadly the execution of it fell short. The service offers the chance to read an unlimited amount of comic books for a low monthly subscription. The problem stems from the flash-based reader that Marvel decided to use, which was incredibly slow and hard to scroll through (and my connection speed was pretty good when I had the free trial), low resolution image of the comics and the fact that you could not download the comics to your computer. Additionally, the service (while still growing) did not feature the possibility to read newly released comic books, which were only released weeks after the issue hit the stands (probably until it was off the shelves). I understand Marvel's point of view in this, if the readers get to see the new comic books online, they are not going to buy the actual comic books. But if you are trying to provide this service as an alternative to buying the single issues, it is imperative that subscribers have access to the newest comic books.

And finally, my crazy idea for a new way to check out comic books: renting them. Alright, so it probably is not *my* original idea, surely someone has thought about this before? But the notion is practically unheard of in comic book circles, even though movies (and games) have been doing it for decades now. It is the same concept, and I have no idea why it has not been done for the comic book industry: a movie originally comes out in theaters (analog to singles issues), and is later collected in a format that is easier for people to digest such as VHS, DVD, or Blu-Ray (hardcovers or paperbacks). If it works for one form of entertainment, why couldn't it work for another? So here's my (very rough) plan: first of all, no reading in stores, a rule that some comic book shops already have in place, but others do not. The change may upset readers, which are used to flipping through some books while at the shop, but you can't see the movie that you are renting on Blockbuster either. The renting could be done in two ways: in-store and regular renting. For in-store you would need a place where people could read (a lounge area if you will) with seats and charge a small price (I am thinking fifty cents) for an allotted amount of time (thirty minutes should be plenty of time for most comic books, but not a long enough time to get more than a second reading) to read the comic book. Of course, this system has its flaws, such as comic book stores needing the appropriate space to handle customers sitting down to read and most people like to read in the comfort of their own home, which is where the second way of renting comes in. Just like you would rent at your local video store or blockbuster, you could pay a fraction of the price of the comic book (one dollar per rental has a nice ring to it) and you could take it home for one or two days to read at your convenience. This brings another set of problems, such as needing information (maybe a credit card number, like video stores do) from customers, so they don't run off with your rental, and the danger of customer damaging the comics (which could later be sold at a discount price if needed). In both cases, a customer could decide to purchase the rental by just paying the difference between the cover price and what has already been paid, or just directly buy the item without renting it first (which is what most of us do anyway). At the prices I have mentioned, you could read 6 comics in-store for the same amount you pay for a regular-priced single issue ($2.99), or take three issues home to read at your own leisure.

I think it would be a good business model, and it could also possible be applied to collections ($5 for a week rental), but sadly I have no idea if there is any market for it. Comic book fans take pride in also being collectors of said items, so I do not know if they would even use this system. What do you guys think? Could it possibly work, or am I just delusional?

(P.S. I apologize for such a long entry with absolutely no images, it is probably an eyesore to read, but I do not think there are appropriate images to go along with this entry)