Monday, January 31, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Hickman writing Icon Book?

Through some digging from Hickman's Formspring and previous interviews, I was able to piece together a possible future book for Icon. Check out what I had to say...
Does this mean that the creator owned projects that Hickman was working in the past year will be released by Marvel through the Icon imprint? It would certainly be a smart move on their part, having all of a creator’s work under one roof. And now we also know that creators can release graphic novels through Icon, which is what Bendis is going to do with Takio.
 I love doing these kind of articles. Although I have to say, I am somewhat surprised that it hasn't gotten more attention. Places like Robot 6 and Bleeding Cool usually link back to pieces like this. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bike Patrol

For all the bad stuff I say about living where I do, there's something that I am thoroughly impressed about. The city of Valencia, where I live, has a public system of bicycles.

Yes, you read that right. Public transportation bikes.

You pay a minimal yearly fee (18 euros), and you can use public bicycles to get around the city. There are stations peppered throughout the whole city where you can park and take them out, and when you are done, you leave them at any other station. The whole thing, aside from the yearly fee, is FREE for people to use as many times as you want. The only catch is that you have limited time of 30 minutes to make your trip. If you run over that, they charge you 50 cents, or an extra euro if you go over the hour. This is easily avoidable because 1)Valencia is pretty small and you can get halfway across with those 30 minutes and 2) You can park the bicycle and take it out again for an extra 30 minutes as many times as you want.

The system was implemented earlier last year, and it was a HUGE success. The public bikes have become another common part of the urban landscape. I have been using it almost since the beginning, and I looked like a weirdo at first (people would stop me and ask me about the service while I was riding it) because no one else was using it. As the weeks and months passed, more and more people started joining up, and they are easy to spot because the bikes have a distinctive dark purple cover. Now, it is a common sight for me, when I ride a public bike, to see every person around me is also riding one.

It's a relatively cheap, alternative transportation system. It's not without its faults (sometimes it's hard to find a bike or where to park it), but it has worked out incredibly well for this city. I know for a fact that more cities are beginning to implement it (when I visited London in September, I saw that they had them too), and I hope the idea really takes off. If you want to read more about the system here in Valencia, you can go to their website.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Meanwhile at ThoughtBalloons - Batman, Inc.

This week was my turn to choose, and rather than a character, I went ahead and chose a concept: Batman, Inc. I think the writers will be able to turn in some fun concepts and it expands our pool a bit, by allowing us the possibility of creating new characters. For example, in my story Tilting at Windmills, I created a new character: 

BRUCE WAYNE: Hidalgo has proven more than capable of handling his region. 
BRUCE: He’s young, idealistic, and impulsive but ready and eager to fight for the greater good. Does that remind you of anyone? 
ALFRED: I could think of one or two men I have known that fit that archetype, yes.

Now I can sit back and enjoy the show. I really want to see what other people come up with this week. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Free Comics Review 01/26/11

Another week of free comics! I normally enjoy getting to read stuff for free, and while there's usually some good stuff there, for this week's column I got re-read one of my favorite comics ever. That's right, the first issue of Nextwave is up for free on the Marvel app, along with a bunch of other ones. In my review, I wrote...

I don’t want to say it’s better than Watchmen, but Alan Moore threatened to release Glycon if Marvel continued to publish it. And that’s why it was canceled. 

Which may or may not be true. You all better go ahead and read it! It's free, so you don't have any excuse!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meanwhile at ThoughtBalloons - Doctor Strange

Possibly one of the hardest characters to get right, and I can say I am completely happy with my output this week. Doctor Strange is a character that suffers from perpetual support-character syndrome, always showing up in other people's stories, but rarely in his own. I think I committed the same mistake. While he is by no means a guest character, in my script Blood Magic, he appears along a bunch of other people.Take a look...

DR. STRANGE: Magic is governed by a set of rules, as old as the universe itself. To prevent exploitation, no mortal but the Sorcerer Supreme has full knowledge of them.

DR. STRANGE: The most paramount rule to all magical beings is this: to grant something, you must get something in return.

I did like the script in general, but it feels more like a New Avengers script than a solo Doctor Strange one.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just like the Movies

Movies in Spain are sometimes released much more later than in the rest of the international markets. Sometimes it's a couple of days, weeks, and in the worst case scenario, months. Such is the case with Red, the comic book adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer.

The film is going to be released here this past week, January 18th. In the international markets, it was released back in October. What this means is that, this week, January 25th the DVD for it will be released in the UK. (Remember that the European Union has all the same coding, so that film would definitely work in my player).

Therefore, I have two choices: I could either spend twenty bucks, go to the movie theater, where I can only experience the movie once AND I have to listen to it in Spanish. Yes, with dubbed voices, I don't even get to hear the original voice acting (for some stupid reason, they won't release here with the original voice acting and subtitles, it's all dubbed). When you have people like Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman, their voices are a key part of the movie. The other choice is to wait an extra week, order it online, have it delivered to my door, and watch it at my leisure as many times as I want it.

Which choice would you make?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Past Perfect Continuous in Passive (Aggressive) Form

From my Twitter account:

Look, English Language, I like you a lot and I use you every day, but have you considered streamlining some of your useless tenses?

For example, the past perfect continuous in passive form? No on uses that! We might has well get rid of it, right?

Seriously, has anyone here used the past perfect continuous in passive form in any case outside of learning about it?

(for the record, an example of that one would be "It had been being mended". And yes, that is grammatically correct)
While preparing for my upcoming course, I've been going through the darker annals of the English language, and sometimes you find things like this that make you scratch your head. It's a tense that is never used, to the point that just looking at it feels wrong. While it technically must exist, I can't even think of a sentence where I would use this in an organic way. Bonus points to whoever comes up with a proper use for it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Are you a Wizard?

With news of Wizard magazine reportedly closing down, I figure this is a good time as any to tell this story. 

When I was around 13 or 14, after I had just moved to the United States, I used to read Wizard magazine. At this point in my life, I had read some comics, but I was in no way an aficionado, just odds and ends that my dad would buy me. I knew all of the popular characters, and read plenty of mainstream stuff, but I was still very entry-level in my reading. I think I accompanied my parents to Winn Dixie (that's a supermarket), and in the magazine rack I saw a familiar figure sticking out (probably Spider-Man, this was around the time the first movie came out), and they bought it for me. Inside, I think there was a big piece on the Ultimate universe, as well as some info on upcoming movies, and some "Top 50" characters of all time. 

In any case, for the next year or so, every time I would accompany my parents to the supermarket, I would look through the magazine section. I wouldn't buy any current comics (I had no idea where to find a comic book store at that time), but it was interesting to me to read about them anyway. I particularly remember a piece on the Milligan-Allred X-Force that made an impression on my mind. The prize guide in the back puzzled me to no end, though I enjoyed going through the names to see what caught my eye. After some months of reading, I actually wrote an email to the editor, answering a question that I think was about what franchises from other media I would like to see in comics. I figured some poor intern had to read through my poor English (remember, I had lived in the U.S. for about year at the time), and deleted it from their inbox.

Apparently, they actually published it in the magazine. 

To this day, I have not seen the actual letter printed on it, nor do I remember what I actually wrote. I didn't even know that they had printed it, until one day, months later after I had sent it, and after I had stopped buying Wizard, some like-minded fan sent me an email (I guess they published my e-mail too), just striking up conversation about the comics he was reading at the time. I remember he told me in what issue they printed it, but to be honest, I'm afraid to go back and look at it. Like I said, my English was probably definitely very poor, and my knowledge of the industry in general and the comic books published at the time was laughable. Some day, someone might even find it, recognize my name and ask me about it. But until then, I'm probably better off avoiding it.

In any case, I stopped reading Wizard around that time, with my interest going in other directions like video games, music, and girls. When I went back to comics, dedicated websites like Comic Book Resources were already in full bloom, and buying the magazine was a waste of money. I was snarky about it on Twitter but I guess Wizard could still be useful if it attracted kids like me in the magazine stands of markets, stores, and so on like it did with me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Batman Wears Prada

Sometimes I get stupid crazy (or crazy stupid) ideas, with no idea where they come from. Other times, it's much easier to pinpoint. Take for example, what I was tweeting earlier today...

The Batman Wears Prada, with Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and Anne Hathway as Selina Kyle, a young college graduate that now works for him.She must cater to all the wild & ridiculous demands from Wayne ("why does he need so many capes?") which eventually drives her to seek revenge.

(See what I mean about stupid crazy?) 

 It's a confluence of things. Just earlier this week they announced that Anne Hathway would play Selina Kyle  (Catwoman) in the third Nolanverse Batman film. Last night, together with my wife we re-watched The Dark Knight for the first time since we saw it in theater. And now The Devil Wears Prada is on TV (not that I'm actively watching it, since I have music and headphones on) but it's what kicked off the thought process.

But at the same time, while the idea is kind of silly, it could provide for a nice basis of the Selina/Bruce relationship. Imagine Selina Kyle does start working for him (remember that Lucius quit at the end of TDK), and slowly gains his trust, but the whole time she was just planning of robbing him blind. I could actually see something like that in the Nolan version of the Batman universe.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In Defense of Video Game Music

I remember in the past laughing at the people that said they would listen to video game music. There are levels of nerdiness, I thought, that just seem far beyond my reach.

Well, that wall was shattered today, as I just listened to an album of 100% video game music. Not only video game music, but 8-bit music in the style of classic video games of yesteryear. In my defense, though, it was by Anamaguchi, which by all accounts is the best of its genre, and it was the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Soundtrack (that's a mouthful, isn't it?). I was a bit reluctant at first, but there's several factors that convinced me...

1 - They are usually instrumental, or at least with very little in terms of lyrics, which means that it worked great as background music that doesn't distract you too much when you are doing other tasks like writing and reading.

2 - They are short. I have a short attention span for music. Songs better be entertaining, catchy, and above all, they must not overstay their welcome. Which is not to say that I dislike old songs, but if you repeat the same verse/chorus more than three times AND you are not The Ramones, you better have a damn good reason for making me listen to your song for five minutes. 

3 - Unifying themes. I'm a sucker for themes and movements across different songs, as they give unity to an album (something lost on many artists), and work perfectly to transition from one song to the other. I understand this is probably a side effect from video games when they have recurring characters with their own theme song.

In any case, I'll probably sample a few other albums of this kind, see how much I enjoy it, or if this was just a fluke.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Free Comics Review 01/19/11

This was a monster sized week for Free Comics Review! There was a whooping total of nine comics for me to review, and I spend a good part of today finishing up that damn column (and I even folded three reviews into one, to make things simpler). This week I reviewed...

Arcana Studios Present 2004-06
Extracurricular Activities #1
Lamorte Sisters #1
New Mutants #1
Thor #26
Ultimate Spider-Man #46
Valentine #9

It's a pretty strong week, and I did spend a lot of time writing it, so go ahead and check it out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meanwhile at ThoughtBalloons - Ben Reilly

This is one of those times where you have an idea and everything just clicks into perfection. This week I was thinking of what to do with Ben Reilly, Spider-Man's clone, when it suddenly dawned on me: make him a mentor of other clones! (Comics, I know). So the idea went into motion, and this is what came out, a story called "Most Valuable Clone"...
MAN: Clones! Aren’t they a pain in the back? You can’t even argue with them because they will think exactly like you!

MICHAEL & PATRICK (together): And who are you?

MAN: Me? Oh, just a friend of a friend of yours. I’m the one that invited you here, boys.

I think it was a pretty neat idea, if somehow very comic-y. To the point where I could actually see something very similar done with the characters.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Superman: Origin (Dragon Age: Origin version)

For Christmas, my wife bought me a copy of Dragon Age: Origin Ultimate Edition. This was a bad decision on her part, because I am now clearly addicted to this game. I'm just a sucker for RPG games, and I will spend hours in front of the XBox playing it (as she surely figured out by now). The game is expansive enough that I could spend all of next month playing, and even then I would still find new ways to entertain myself. And the LOTR-inspired story is also pretty mesmerizing, the creators went a long way to create a vivid world, with colorful and inspired characters. 

As it tends to be the case with most RPG's, the game is based on going around the world and fighting all kinds of creatures. As you travel the world map, you will run into random encounters, though they are not always enemies. Sometimes they are merchants, allies, quests, cut scenes, etc. I was minding my own business, when I ran into a random encounter, and this time it was a cut scene.

A meteorite landed right in the path of where I was going (though the scene shown happens immediately before you get there), and a farmer couple approaches the burning crater. As they do so, we can see that a baby is in the hole, and the male farmer notices, grabbing him, that it looks just like a normal human baby. He tells his wife, Martha, that this is a sign of the Maker they should raise him as if he were their son. Once you reach the scene, after Martha (and though not named, Jonathan) left the scene, you reach the crater. Inside of it, there is a mysterious metal (kryptonite) that you can loot and use to create a special sword. 

I can't wait for the next part of this video game saga, which must inevitably be called Dragon Age: The Man of Steel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back To School - Studying

In February, I will be resuming my formal education, taking a course to obtain a CELTA degree, teaching English to adults, though I know for a fact that it's also valid for teaching in academies, regardless of age. It's been a while since I went to school. Because of circumstances outside of my control, I was not able to continue my higher education, dropping out of college after I got my Associate in Arts Degree (which is basically just the first two years of American college, just taking general classes). 

I was a pretty good student, and I truly enjoyed learning new knowledge, studying, and even doing homework. Yeah, I was a nerd, and I was good at it. My grades were crazy good, and in the first school I ever went to, I was something of a small legend (more of a big fish in a small pond, to be honest) because I got the highest math score in the FCAT (the state standarized state) of the whole school, and because I finished my first year with a 4.0 grade point average (that means I got straight A's in ALL my classes, during ALL semesters). I remember meeting a new classmate once and he said "Oh, so you are the famous Matias?".

As I moved to more challenging subjects and schools (for my last two years of high school, I went to one of the most demanding schools of the whole country), my grades obviously dropped and I knew I wasn't the smartest person in the school, but I still enjoyed school. 

Flash forward to early 2010, when I was taking a short business course. I struggled quite a lot, more than probably anything else in my entire school life. It had been a couple of years since I had dropped out, and the question running through my head was "How did it get so rusty? How did I get so dumb?". Back in high school, I would have learned all that was taught in that class with incredibly ease, but here I was struggling with simple memorization. It was worrisome, to say the least. 

Flash forward again, now to the present day. This time, I am preparing for this course, and I am finding it so much easier. And today, the reason dawned on me: the book I am reading now, and the class I am going to be taking, are in English. The course I had taken in 2010 was completely in Spanish. 

I'm fluent in both languages, to the point that when people ask me which one is my native language, I always struggle to explain that I'm equally fluent in both. However, my thought process, after years of living in the United States, and being in a relationship with my now-wife who also speaks English, is completely in English. I had never realized how much more difficult the thought process becomes when you have to translate everything in your mind, even if it's done automatically. It makes studying that much more of a struggle.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Return of Havok, Polaris, and Marvel Girl

Over at The Weekly Crisis, I have pieced together some hints about the upcoming return of these three characters. They have been missing for quite some time, lost in editorial limbo, where no one knew what to do with them. Should have made a Starjammers mini series or something out of it, but the hints seem to point that the characters will return to Earth. Go read the whole article.

While not concrete evidence in of itself, paired with the other clue dropped by Mike Carey, we can start painting a clearer picture of the status of Havok, Polaris, and Marvel Girl. Between these two unrelated pieces, I think you can start forming the puzzle of the trio’s comeback. It took a while, but it looks like they will finally make a (glorious?) comeback to the X-books.

I like writing these kind of articles, hunting through different sources for news that slip under people's radar. It's the closest thing to comic journalism that one can do for free, I think.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Favorite Tracks - It's Hard to Know by Hot Water Music

I absolutely love Hot Water Music. It's one of those bands that is completely unique, and no one even comes close to their level of brilliance. Sadly, I got into them way too late, after they had broken up, and I never had the chance to see them live. They did get back together a year or two back, but the fact that I'm Europe means that my chances of seeing them are pretty low. Back in Miami, they would have been considerably higher, as the band was native to Gainesville, Florida.

Choosing a favorite Hot Water Music record is an exercise in futility, as each one has a very different personality. The band as a whole grew and changed throughout their career, with a trademark sound, but continually changing. Whether they were improving or not is a personal taste, but I appreciate the fact that they never remained stagnant. 

The high point of their career, in my humble opinion, is their 1999 album, No Division. That's the point where the dual vocals reach perfection, and become an entity of itself. I remember my wife once asked me what my favorite song was (although, to be honest, it changes every week), and I chose one from this album called It's Hard to Know. The most compelling part of it goes something like this...

It's hard to find your way through the darkness, it's hard to know what to believe.
But if you live by your heart and value the love that you find, when you have all you need.
To run , don't follow
. Lead a life the best we know.

She listened to it and asked me if it was a love song. It's not, at least not in the conventional sense, but it's a song about loving and living life. I told her yes, but she wasn't impressed with my explanation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Free Comics Review 01/12/11

Another week, another batch of free comics to review. Although this week was a particularly small one, with only two (and one of them was Box 13, which is only 8 or so pages). It's a wonder I wrote enough to fill up the column, to be honest. So this week I reviewed...

Box 13 (Vol. 2) #9
Vision Machine #3

I was pretty excited to read the last chapter of Vision Machine. Should re-read it all, and see how it flows together. In any case, go check it out. There was also a short Marvel story featuring Captain America that was about suicide prevention. Not the kind of thing that need or should be reviewed, as it's mostly a public service announcement than an actual comic.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meanwhile at ThoughtBalloons - Lois Lane

This week on ThoughtBalloons, it was the turn for Lois Lane. This week was a tough one for me as well, because I had already written a pretty strong Lois script when it was Superman's week. Instead, I finally went for something completely different, in a story called "Beyond Metropolis":

THUG #1: Boss said you were sniffing around the offices, so we gotta send a message.

THUG #2: Yeah, that being a reporter in this city is bad for your health!

LOIS LANE: Now, gentlemen, that’s no way to talk to a lady, is it? Threats will get you nowhere, besides...
What I ended up writing borders a bit on the fan-fiction side, but I do have a pretty good idea for the story behind it. Anyway, go check it out, it has a nice twist ending.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - The Dark Age Contest

I organized this pretty cool contest over at The Weekly Crisis.You can win a copy of The Dark Age #1 from Black Label Comics. Check out the contest.

I paid this out of my own money, and I was glad to help my friend Ian, who is living the dream of being a comic book creator under his own terms. Anyway, it's a pretty small number of entries so far, which means that if you are reading this, and haven't entered yet, you have pretty good chances to win it. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scott Pilgrim and The Infinite Giftness

I introduced my wife to Scott Pilgrim via the books, and despite reluctance at first, she ended up loving the series (as it tends to be with all the books I recommend for her, though she would never admit it). Back in September, during our trip to London, we saw the movie. It's nice to find common ground like this, as we both love everything about Scott Pilgrim. 

In some level I think we see ourselves reflected in Scott and Ramona. Not because of the epic fights I had to go through to earn her love (though there were some of those), but rather in the general lesson that true love can be found, but it most always be fought for, and that it takes an effort to stay in a healthy relationship.

Then in early December, when I was thinking of Christmas gifts for my wife, I had the bright idea of buying her a set of Scott Pilgrim plushies, pictured above. More than a month later, I finally received them today. It was a long wait, but I finally got her gift. 

Why did it take this long? These bastards must be incredibly popular to begin with, as everywhere I looked they seemed to be sold out completely, or they only had one of the characters. It was imperative that I was able to purchase both, or else the gift wouldn't make much sense. I hunted for it, and I was finally able to find it in a seller in the German version of Amazon. I had to pay a pretty penny for it, but it was worth it. So I waited and waited for the gift to get there. I knew it would take some time, but if everything went to plan, it would get there in time for Christmas.

Things didn't go according to the plan.

On the week prior to Christmas, I was coming to the realization that it might not get there in time after all. I enacted a back-up plan, as I went and purchased a secondary gift (a bonsai tree), and I explained to her the situation. You see, our wedding anniversary is only a few days after Christmas, so I told her that the bonsai would be the X-mas present, and the other one (that must surely arrive any day now!) would be the anniversary present. All the while, she had no clue what the gift was, and she was hunting for clues as to what I had bought. 

Needless to say, our Anniversary passed and there was still no sight of the damn Scott Pilgrim plushies I had ordered more than three weeks ago. Germany is not that far, and even with the bad weather conditions in December, it should have gotten there earlier. It was at this point that I decided to contact the seller, to see what was going on. This was going to be hard, and something that I was hoping not to do, because, as I mentioned above, it was a German seller. I don't speak on word of German. 

It was when I went to check the receipt that I noticed something odd. In case you don't know, when you purchase through a seller in Amazon, they send you two receipts: one from the seller and another from Amazon itself. Everything was fine on the Amazon email, but the receipt from the seller had one tiny bit of information wrong. It had my correct name, and my address, and even the correct city. 

It did, however, have the wrong country on it. It said "El Salvador". 

Needless to say, I do not live in El Salvador, nor even in the same continent. I was sure that I had put the correct information, and I had the Amazon email to confirm that. I could not even mistake "Spain" for "El Salvador" in the list to choose, as they are very far apart on it. At least now I knew why the package was taking so long: because it was going to another country. Meanwhile, I had to tell my wife what was going on, and I had to reveal what the gift was (or rather, she guessed it after I ran out of clues to give her while she waited).

So I contacted the seller. I wrote the email in English, hoping for the best, and as it turned out, the person spoke it as well. It appears that because of a database error on their end, when the information was transferred from Amazon, it selected the wrong country. So it wasn't my fault after all, and thankfully they still had more stock of the plushies, so they could send a brand new order without having to wait for the other one to come back from El Salvador. 

Which brings us to today, when the gift finally arrived in the mail. My wife was at the academy (where she studies) when they got here, so I was able to surprise her when she got home. She really liked them, so at least there's that. 

And there must also be a very confused Matias Duarte in El Salvador, wondering why he got two random dolls in the mail.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chibi Rorschach T-Shirt

Your eyes do not deceive you, that *IS* a t-shirt with a chibi version of Rorschach, with a bloody butcher's knife that says "Need Help?" underneath. Incidentally, that noise you hear is the sound of Alan Moore of rolling around in his yet un-dug grave. 

I've seen it a couple of times before, but the last time I was there, I decided to snap a picture of it with my (incredibly lame) cell phone camera. The store in question is New Yorker. I tried looking around their catalog for a better photo, but they don't seem to have one. It wasn't the only one of this kind, as they seemed to have others with horror-movie characters (all of them chibi-ed), such as Freddy, Jason, and the puppet from Saw.

I have a very strong suspicion that this is not exactly legally licensed material.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Last Days of American Crime Advertisement

Why am I posting a random in-house advertisement for Radical Comics' Last Days of American Crime?

Look closely, and you will see that part of my review was used for one of the advertisement. Even though they don't use my name ("Matt who?") I know it was me, because I was the only one at The Weekly Crisis reviewing the series. I do wish they would have used another line from it, as the verdict is the part that I put almost the least effort into, since it's just a normalized rating (not to mention that the third issue got a "Must Read" verdict, instead of a "Buy it").

In any case, Radical, if you still want to use some of my words to try to catch new readers, here are some from my own reviews that I would recommend instead! For example...

"It’s brutal, dirty, and overwhelming." - The Weekly Crisis

"The characters are compelling and keep you guessing just what is going to happen until the very last page." - The Weekly Crisis

"Peppered with ultra violence that a crime book like this warrants." - The Weekly Crisis

" A complex tale of despicable people, backstabbing, sex, and crime building up to [a] big heist." - The Weekly Crisis

"It's every man for himself trying to get on the last lifeboat punching anyone who gets in the way." - The Weekly Crisis

"A hit in the making." - The Weekly Crisis

In any case, it's pretty cool to see this kind of thing. It's not the first time The Weekly Crisis has been quoted like this (twice in Marvel solicits), but it's my personal first. I wonder if it's also printed in the back of the paperback, or if it's just the advertisement. If anyone's got it, do let me know.And if you haven't, you should totally buy it, it's a great book for fans of crime fiction.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Favorite Tracks - Hope by The Descendents

I always joke I have terrible taste in music, in Favorite Tracks, you are going to find out exactly how horrible it is, as I highlight some of my favorite songs. 

The Descendents are probably one of the most influential, yet least recognized band out there. I can understand why they are not as popular as they should be (I mean, outside of the punk circle that does know about them). Their early lyrics border on the sophomoric and teenage side of things, but as they grew older they embraced this absurdity and played to it. 

Certainly, their first full length album Milo Goes To College suffers somewhat because of this, but it doesn't hide their ability to produce incredibly anthemic and thoroughly catchy lines. It's a classic from that era, and my favorite track off of it is the simply called "Hope" (that's a Spotify link, by the way. Sorry Americans, it probably won't work for you).

Even though the song is about a relationship, there's a wonderful line in there that works as part of the chorus: "I know my day will come." It's so simple, literally anyone could have written it, but there's a certain mix of desperation and honesty behind the way vocalist Milo Aukerman sings it. It's almost as if he repeats it enough times, and with enough honesty, it will come true. We know that's not how it works, but in 1982 when the band wrote this song, they were basically teenagers, and they might have really believed it. In any case, this song is one for the ages.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Free Comics 01/05/11

Every week, I go to the ComiXology apps, and download every free comic they have available. It's a great way to revisit old favorites and discover new gems (along with a few coals here and there). 
This week, I reviewed...

Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1
Daredevil #100
Ultimate Fantastic Four #33
X-Factor #7

It's a pretty strong week, if I say so myself. Some of my favorite writers in there, and nothing that stuck out as bad (just maybe a bit generic). And besides, they are free.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Meanwhile at ThoughtBalloons - Reed Richards

I had a tough time with this one. I had plenty of ideas for Reed Richards, but none that I could condense into one single page to my satisfaction. In the end, I went with a small tribute that I think really fits the character (not to mention another tribute in the title as well, to Hickman's first story arc on Fantastic Four).

The story is simply called Answer Everything. Here's a small excerpt...

THE THING: Whadda you mean everything, stretcho? Didja stare at your notes for so long that you forgot to blink again?

REED RICHARDS: No, Ben, this is real. It’s the answer to everything. Even in this very room, the answer is already apparent. Furthermore, I also know the question.

So far the response seems to be really positive. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meanwhile at TWC - Solicitations for March 2011

I have been neglecting this column for the past couple of months, because it just reminds me of all the cool shit I won't be buying. That doesn't mean I don't have anything to say about them! March 2011, in particular, brings two bad things to my attention. 

The solicitation and cover of Justice League: Generation Lost #21 flat out say that Blue Beetle is dead.
We all knew it was coming, sooner or later, but it seems that Steve Rogers will finally return to don the mantle of Captain America.
 Terrible notices, if they are true, on both fronts. On the bright side, there's plenty of good stuff too, so head over to The Weekly Crisis and check it out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thank You For Not Smoking

Two days ago, Spain finally approved a law that would ban smoking in basically all closed public spaces (and even some open ones, like children areas in parks). This is years behind the rest of Europe and United States, and as it tends to be with these kind of laws coming into effect, certain part of the populace has shown an extreme resistance in complying with it.

Smoking was already banned in a lot of places, but the last big hurdle to be jumped was bars and restaurants. Until three days ago, you could not go out to eat to a fancy restaurant without coming out smelling like an ashtray (If you even dared go to a club, you would smell like chimney for a week). The main argument being that people enjoy eating and drinking while they smoke, so they should have the right to do so. And what about the people, like myself, that decidedly don't smoke, and decidedly don't like the smell of it? Well, you should have stayed at home if you don't like it. In the final days before the law came into place, and in the past few days, every dissenting opinion has come out and said that the new no-smoking law would hurt business. The argument being that people that used to come and smoke while they enjoyed their food and their drinks, would stop coming to the bars and restaurants. 


Smokers will get mad for the first months, then realize life goes on, and begrudgingly accept the reality that if they want to say they live in first world country, then perhaps they should start acting like one. Meanwhile, people like me, who hate the smell of cigarette (or cigar) smoke, will finally be able to enjoy a meal without having the noxious smell of tobacco hanging around your person even after you exited the place you were in. As it was before, I only ever went to bar and restaurants when I either knew people couldn't smoke in there (as it was the case with restaurants inside shopping malls) or when there was absolutely no option.

Needless to say, and in case you haven't grabbed the subtext from my negative tone towards the subject, I hate smoking. It's a terrible habit that damages untold amount of lives, not just those of smokers. Speaking of which, remember when Joe Quesada, then editor of Marvel Comics, decided to ban smoking from being portrayed in their comics (particularly when it was heroes like Wolverine or The Thing)? I know people like to get up in arms about, but I honestly think it was good moral decision (if not a wise story telling one) and I hope it made a difference, no matter how small.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Even though, as I noted in yesterday's entry, I am no longer employed, today I nevertheless woke up early. I had a trip to make, to the unemployment office, to apply for the benefits that it entails. I will be getting paid a rather acceptable amount of money, which makes me happy. I will be needing that money for my studies. Despite how much I want to, I won't be spending any of that money on comics, video games, etc. Survival first, luxuries later.

In the back of my mind, I was half expecting it to be empty. I went on the first working day of the year, and I luckily didn't have to wait long. But there was still a sizable number of people, which is what I should have expected.

Spain is going through a tremendous economical crisis, much like the rest of the world, but one that is accentuated by the tremendous unemployment rates. As it stands right now, it's a hair underneath 20 percent. It's double than the rest of Europe. That's one in five people currently out of job.

Any way you slice it, they are bad numbers. And it just went up, at least, by one more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Day in The Life

To understand why I haven't been writing as much as I would like to, it is important to understand what a typical day was like for me. For those of you that don't know, I currently live in Spain, and most people's work schedule in this country is broken up in two parts. You go to work in the morning, come back home for lunch, and then head back to work for the other half of the day. This has a nasty side effect of taking up your whole day, and reducing any free time to a minimum. This is what my typical work day would look like:

7:30 AM - Wake up. Breakfast, daily grooming, and getting ready for work. 
8:30 AM - Bus commute to work. Roughly half an hour, which I would use to read books and/or comics (though not floppies, as carrying them in my backpack would easily damage them), listen to podcasts, or just check Tweets. 
9:00 AM - Work. 
1:30 PM - Get out of work for lunch. Again, a commute back home of half an hour. 
2:00 PM - Lunch. I'm pretty lucky that my wife usually cooks for me so the food would ready when I got home (She does this because she is home in the morning, not because she is the wife. Last year, when she had to go her school in the morning, I usually started cooking as soon as I got home)

Here I would have around 30 or 40 minutes of free time, give or take. I would use this time to check for important emails or messages, answer them, and check news. And cuddle with my wife. There must always be cuddle time. When I was feeling particularly tired, I also took a power nap (about 20 minutes) which would help me get through the rest of the day.

3:30 PM - Commute back to work. 
4:00 PM - Work
7:30 PM - Get out of work for the day. Commute back to home.
8:00 PM - This is the time that I would get home for the day, where you can finally relax and enjoy the rest of your day... which is only 4 or so hours. And this time includes dinner, taking baths, walking the dog, etc. Any writing or comic reading that I would want to get done must either be done in this time period or not be done until the weekend. 
12:00 PM - Ideally, this would be the time I'd try to get to sleep that would guarantee me the minimum amount of rest to survive the next day. I often failed spectacularly.

As you can see, the work schedule is absolutely brutal. You leave the house at 7:30 AM and only really finish your work day twelve hours later. Even though it's only eight hours of work a day, the same as (mostly) everyone else, it manages to feel like the whole day. I wasted two hours in commute every day, and while I manage to find ways to utilize them, if my work schedule had been continuous it would have been half of that.
And that's a regular day! If I needed to get something done, like say go to the bank, post office, or comic book store, I would need to take out and extra half an hour from the free time. You see, nothing here is ever open on Sundays, and banks, for example, open only from 8 AM to 2 PM. To say that it's a pain in the ass is an understatement. Back in the United States, I would work from 7 AM to 3 PM, which meant that I had the whole afternoon for myself. Even the typical 9 to 5 job would grant you more freedom. There have been talks of adopting those kind of continuous work hours, but knowing Spain, it probably won't be for years until they finally establish it. As it stands, most of the country works in what is called here "Horario Partido" (divided hours).

Of course, that is all over for me. December 31st, 2010 was my last day at work, and I am currently unemployed. That routine is forever gone (or at least until my next job). 

Tomorrow: A trip to the unemployment office!

Meanwhile at TWC - Batman Digital Sales

(Why yes, I *AM* totally stealing this from Ryan)

Over at The Weekly Crisis, I wrote up a post about yesterday's sale on Batman Digital Comics. A nice idea, but with terrible oversights. Check it out:

To make matters worse, the very first issue available on this sale, Batman #600, is the start of such a crossover: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive. The following available issue, Batman #601, is part 3 of this story, with part 2 nowhere to be seen or found. The pattern occurs throughout the event, with only part 1, 3, 11, and 18. Even if you are terrible at math, you can see that’s less that one quarter of the story!
I've heard from several people that decided against buying these comics because of this fact. I don't know how accurate the sampling is versus the population at large, but it does prove that the problem is there, and that it cost DC (and ComiXology, and Apple, by proxy) some sales. One step forward, and one stumble back, if you ask me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ampersand Comics 3.0

Third time is the charm, isn't it?

I've been terrible in the past about updating this blog. I make promises I can't keep, and then it fades into the back of my mind, and I never update it. That's not going to be the case this time. I have the free time to start writing more often, and I intend to keep this thing updated daily.

To get things started, there's a new page layout. Still some kinks to be sorted out, but I generally like how it looks like. Thoughts?

Come back tomorrow for more!