2011 in review – A WordPress Summary

“The WordPress.com stats helper-
monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.”

I really have no idea what most of that sentence meant, I sure didn’t write it but I can’t deny it either.

Below are the stats WordPress sends annually to let bloggers know how awesome they are. I feel pretty awesome but… let’s see if we can do better. I can’t get any of these numbers without you. It sucks but it’s true. Readers are awesome!

Thanks for your participation!

-VR

Oh and I’ve been to San Francisco but I have never ridden on a cable car. California sucks!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Mark Waid and Boom!

Now I’ve always liked Mark Waid. The dude is a talented engine of creativity that hasn’t stopped writing amazing stories regularly – or regularly enough – for two decades. That’s twenty (20) years folks, some of the best talent in comics today can’t even remember that far back! His team-up with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come is an absolute must-have for any comic collector although I know him best from his run on RUSE published by the ill-fated CrossGen comics – now a MARVEL book thanks to Disney.

I loved CrossGen. Let’s take a moment to remember it shall we?

Flying fist in your face.
There is no santa? NOOOOO!!!

Alright so enough praise for Mark Waid; let’s talk about his inconceivable Irredeemable! If this book isn’t a good read then I’m not reading good things. It definitely has its roots in a sub-plot of Kingdom Come but takes it to a devastating degree. I haven’t read the individual comics because I’ve been on a trade kick as of late but as the trades are keeping me on the edge of my seat I can only imagine what it’s like to get them one book at a time!

Think of what would happen if the most powerful superhero in the world went all ape-spit on everyone because something in his head just finally tilted and snapped – like the caption I have in the picture – and started destroying cities and continents. Not stopping there he decides to take out certain heroes too and all the while the people he had promised to protect live in fear that he will turn on them. Well… this book outlines all those things as well as a history of events that would make one question the ideals of all super heroes. Thank goodness it’s just a story!

Backfire
No more Tacos for you...

And that’s one of the reasons I started reading Incorruptible; it isn’t the same story although the setting is in the same world and has a nice dessert feel to the big meal that is Irredeemable. Completely the opposite of the other book I’ve now named twice, Incorruptible is about a super-powered asshole villain that decides to go “good”  when the Plutonian – hero-turned-oppressor – goes berserk. Instead of looting he decides to walk the straight ant narrow and begins working with a Police liaison while keeping up the bad-guy status. Kinda like what the last scene of the 2008 film  The Dark Knight implies.

It sounds a little lame when I put it that way maybe, but it’s Mark Waid dammit! The dude is King Midas of comics!!

Potter’s Field is a great read for anyone that appreciates a good noir-style mystery without super-peoples. The brains at Boom! really knew what they were doing by showcasing previews of books like this and The Unknown in the back of their trades. They got me hooked and helped push me a little closer to my Waid appreciation, allowing for this blog post. I know, right? The Unknown is a noir-style supernatural story published in two different trades (The Unknown and, Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh) that I’m aware of. Definitely a great addition to my collection although a bit of a let-down, but I’ll let you down by not expounding. The real tragedy of the Unknown books is that of the illustrator Minck Oosterveer which is something I’ve alluded to in another post.

Anyway that’s all I wanted to say. It’s taken me a while to say it but it’s said and I’ll not repeat myself. Soon enough I’ll write about other books I’ve found – like  Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Very good stuff!

Until then…

-VR

Catching up… a little.

Because bold statements seem popular…

Ok, so I’ve read a ton of novels – both graphic and not – over the last few months and haven’t really kept up with blogging about them, sorry. My fan/reader base is comprised solely of stragglers and those that follow this blog either out of plain curiosity, kindness or a need to point and laugh – it’s all the same really. Reality doesn’t give much in the way of drive. *sigh*
But that aside I’ll try to throw some titles out there.

Fist of flaming fury!
Not as serious as it seems.

Recently I finished Godland Vol.1 – by Image comics. It reads like Stan at first; I think they’re paying homage to the classics because it is visually like Jack. I enjoyed this book. It really gave me that classic-yet-campy feeling like The Venture Brothers.

 Godland is decently written though horribly edited. Not as bad as some Marvel titles I’ve recently read (currently reading [suffering through] the Onslaught collection – ugh!).  The Artwork is definitely Kirby-esque, especially the women – wide and squat but still attractive. I don’t think this book would work any other way, honestly.

If you know anything about me by now it’s that I love Sci-Fi. I especially love Cosmic adventures. Godland has that but not as “epic” as I would like. Yeah, yeah,  planet earth needs saving… whatever. The Villains aren’t really what I would expect a cosmic-powered hero to fight but they do offer him a challenge: the challenge of memory! Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

The most recent cheap find I’ve really enjoyed was Soulwind Vol.1 – again from Image. I like the format of the book so far – thin and easy to hold – but heard/read that there is a “collected” version like the BONE collection. Not a big fan of books that are as bulky as a dictionary. I yawn just thinking about it.

Since I mentioned BONE in the Soulwind paragraph I’ll compare: It’s similar.
Yeah, deep.
How is it similar? First off the obvious would be the B&W format. Second being the somewhat cartoon-style creatures, expressions and silent moments – narration solely by the voices in your head interpreting the images you see.

Soulwind

I have no problem with a lack of color if the art is decent and the story is slightly interesting – I’m easy; what makes this book work for me, aside from a great, compelling story, is the artwork. Different story segments have different art-styles by the same artist (note the picture). It could be a portfolio in the guise of a story for all we know and I would assume all comics are like that to some extent. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I got my money’s worth. Even if some of the shadows didn’t make sense in a panel or two I understood what the artist was trying to convey and accept that.

Nope, I’m not hip to the new books coming out. I have, however discovered within the last year a publisher called Kickstart Comics when I stumbled upon them in the magazine section of the-store-that-shall-not-be-named when I need to get my Tiger Beat fix. Thumbed through them right there and liked what I saw.
Bought a couple too!
Got them home and read them in a flash.
I didn’t feel like they changed my life any but they were decent and entertaining enough. Likely geared toward teenage audiences, I’m assuming.
Kickstart publishes digest-sized graphic novels – being self-contained story’s – so far.
Some of the titles I picked up read a little… rushed. Heavy Water could have been a little longer but Endangered, maybe even Ward 6 were a bit choppy on the editing. That’s why Editors make the big bucks!

There are several other books I need to list but this is a good start for now. At some point I need to write about how amazing both FABLES and Unwritten are (no, not the song damn you!) and maybe even dive into my new-found obsession with Mark Waid and Boom! Studios and why I believe that talented, up-and-coming artists can never be too confident on their motorcycles. But that’s all for another time.

Thanks for reading!

-VR

Novel Review – James Patterson’s Toys

Latest read: Toys by James Patterson & Neil McMahon. It took a bit longer to read than I would’ve liked – A WHOLE WEEK! Egads!

I’m kidding. Though that’s not record time considering the format, material and that I really love sci-fi.

Toys wasn’t a bad read at all. It was full of action, violence, sexuality, betrayal, gadgets and… just a little kissing. So if you get all excited over any or all these things then I highly recommend this read. Otherwise steer clear or you might end up being sucked into the genre.

  You mean that’s not a brand name?
Never before  have I read any books with the name of James Patterson printed across the cover as though it were the true title of the book. Lord knows there are many of them. Nor have I even seen or heard of Neil McMahon. Sorry, it’s truth. When it comes to Patterson I figured he was just a genre-machine like King, Rice or Goodkind but that doesn’t matter, does it? Since this was a thrill-ride if only in the pacing. I promise!
It was like watching those Saturday afternoon lounging-around Sci-fi thrillers you’d watch back in the day because there was nothing else better to do. Both saddened and amazed you would realize two things 1.) being that you enjoy the cheap thrills on some unknown level; a mystery that may still elude you and 2.) you wasted a perfectly good afternoon.
Toys was a simple read, no doubt but it had enough complexities that would draw in any new reader while appealing to readers a bit more familiar with Science Fiction as a whole. I’m a big fan of Cloak & Dagger, dare I say, Bond-esque leading heroes, but the main character really wasn’t as smart as he wanted you to believe.

Initially I read a synopsis for Toys in some magazine giving me an interest but the real draw was the title and the picture on the cover. Yes, I know the adage. Unfortunately it wasn’t a challenging story – having “solved” it even before I finished it – but continued because I wanted to make sure I was right;  sometimes an author will surprise you with a sudden twist here and a turn there. And there were surprises a-many but ultimately it went right back to where I knew it eventually would which is kind of sad really but sometimes it’s not about the destination but the journey.

If I were to put this overall story into another format other than novelization it would definitely be a decent film source if they do the effects right. I would love to see Peter Chung – of Aeon Flux fame – take a stab at an animated version of it. Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury is a good example of what I’m talking about.

To stress a point: Toys isn’t the greatest story ever told. But for fast pacing, a somewhat dystopian-style futuristic setting with Humans suffering for their “mistakes” – implied devastation – at the hands of genetically engineered elitists… it was still quite entertaining. If that doesn’t interest you in the slightest then you wouldn’t be sold on it anyway.

-VR

 I want it known that I make no money off anything I post here. If I like something I’ll write about it, if I don’t like something I feel less inclined to write about it. If there is something I think you few random stragglers may find of interest then I’ll post something about it. Thanks for reading!

It’s Smile Time!

The Best episode of Angel by far:

Serious Muppet-ass kicking action!
Honestly, what more could you ask for?

Okay, It’s Angel. As a PUPPET! Carrying a sword?! Seriously, what’s not to love?

I hadn’t seen the episode before though I remembered when it aired how – from the buzz amongst friends and strangers long before Facebook connected everyone –  it was humorous and very well-done. Better than you’d think.

My hat’s off to the puppeteer(s).

Check it out on Netflix when you get a chance.

-VR

Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting

Many years ago I read a magazine called Wizard. In said magazine they had written an article about an independent/self-published comic series called Castle Waiting written by an author/illustrator I had never heard of named Linda Medley.  The article amused me and Castle Waiting seemed like something I could be very interested in, but – for the life of me – I couldn’t find a store that had any issues in stock.

When I did – finally! – find some issues they were random at best making it difficult for me to get a true feel for the title (like Jeff Smith’s Bone I hope I don’t reference that series on my blog too much!). In case you hadn’t noticed I’m a fan of continuity and that includes starting a series, no matter the format, from the beginning. It’s just how I roll.

Castle Waiting
Yay for collected editions!

A few years ago – after some time passed and I had all but forgotten about Medley and her book – while my wife and I were shopping at the local mega-book mart I finally found the series published in a hardback, collected form by Fantagraphics! I knew I liked it from what I remembered seeing but when I thumbed through it this time there was nothing but love.

When I saw the simple-yet-detailed artistic style Medley brought to every page and panel and how well her art complimented the characters, the setting(s) and mood(s) it was then that I fell in love. Truly. The artwork reminded me of the books I’d “read” as a child, all the different illustrations for some old story within an Encyclopedia or my dad’s highly touted upon “Book of Knowledge” series.  How the little-known (to me, that is) artists would draw simple but well enough structured depictions of certain ideas and themes within the story’s; whether characters, scenery or both on the following or preceding pages within the chapters. I thought it was brilliantly simple, clean and fitting for a fantasy-based graphic story.

Now I won’t bore you with details on the story within the book. I do believe that Medley wrote Castle Waiting for a non-male audience but that doesn’t make this book less enjoyable. Truth! ;o)
I don’t waste time; yours or mine.
There are now two volumes out and I’m just a little disappointed in the second one because it just… drops off (not to mention that Medley’s name does not seem to be on the book, oddly enough!). You should at least pick up the first volume and see if the characters and the mystery behind them and their surroundings manages to pull you in. If it doesn’t suck you in no matter how much you struggle (as if)…  it’s obviously not for you; but if it does, welcome. Welcome!

Thanks for reading and I’m sure the ever elusive Linda Medley thanks you too.

-VR

Stolen Life

There’s a story in the latest issue of Esquire magazine that touched me deeply. It’s the current issue – as I’m writing this – that has Liam Neeson on the cover pointing at you with a look on his face that seems to say, “kiss my ass”.

It's not polite to point!
Kiss it!

This issue is chock-full of great articles and interviews, the one featuring Neeson is pretty good, though the author, having an issue with time continuity, does have a weird way of phrasing things and I had to read some paragraphs a couple of times over to make sure I was getting what he was trying to say.
Liam is interesting and I like him as an actor and have since I saw him in Krull when I was a child. In the article he seemed to have a hard time talking about his late wife Natasha Richardson which is completely understandable. She was a good actress that brought something different to the films she was in, like Neeson himself (and I honestly think I saw her in person when my wife and I were having dinner with a couple of friends at a very overpriced and overrated Taco joint near an Angelika theater. We have no idea if it was really her since we assume celebs don’t like to be pestered by the common public and, above all else, why in the heck she would be there of all places – with some guy I could only guess was an agent – but it’s one of those things I’ll hold on to and always wonder).

The article made me sad, definitely because we lost a star but also because I am a human and a husband and the last thing I want is to lose my wife to death. I would rather screw up and have her leave me and know that she’s still alive than have her die. It’s happened before and I don’t prefer it.

But as touching as that article was it didn’t quite compare to the story that you won’t find listed as a “must-read” on Esquire’s website – even if you search for it (I tried!) – about Raymond D. Towler, entitled “The Someone You’re Not“. **Update – I did find the Towler article when I searched for images. You can read the article by Mike Sager by clicking the article title above.

[If you want to read The Hard Luck and Beautiful Life of Liam Neeson click here!]

Raymond’s story struck a familiar nerve with me as a person who has been wrongly accused – for the ease of blame placement – more than I’d like. The problem is that Towler was, according to the article, accused of child molestation/rape and the poor guy was nowhere around when it happened. It was, at the very least, a case of racial profiling. Yeah I said it! He was around 24 years old when sentenced and spent nearly 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The man had to live every single day in several different correctional facilities under the stigma of child molestation. How sick is that?

The reason he was there, as the article suggests, was in no small part due to legal incompetence combined with the drive and push that the Judge and Assistant Prosecutor appeared to have to get the trial over in a way that worked for them.

But here’s the thing that got me after reading it all: Towler isn’t all festering and pissed off about it. Sure, he’s “a little mad” but he’s just happy to be out of there. That’s nearly 30 years of an innocent person’s life; you can’t pay a man enough to fix that sort of thing, but it would be a nice start. He had to endure watching people come and go, either being transferred or dying all through the years most people, like you and I, just piss away doing nothing but worrying about the next time we get to eat at McDonald’s. The only time he was able to get out for a moment was when he attended his mother’s funeral in ’84. Even then he was in shackles.

On another positive side he’s a very talented guy. As an artist and a musician he was able to do things other inmates really couldn’t. He even took some classes in various vocations, got his GED as well as an Associate degree and could have gone further if there was proper funding. Needless to say I thought it was the best real-life Shawshank Redemption story ever! But unlike that story he didn’t have to tunnel through the walls and swim through crap; he just had to be patient and put up with crap. Kinda.

Can I relate to this man? In some ways yes and that’s why I thought it was something worth posting about. But unlike him I don’t think I would have been strong enough to have lasted all those years incarcerated for something I didn’t do. Of all the things I’ve been falsely accused of I still keep some anger and hurt over it all – I even have doubts sometimes as to whether I did them or not – and they’re on a scale that doesn’t even compare to the crap this man had to put up with. Through it all it makes you wonder what the justice system is really about. I can’t help thinking that there is something wrong with the system and I know that’s not an original idea. It’s guilty until proven innocent and that’s pretty scary.

Who knows what Raymond Towler could have done or what he would have been if the justice system was a little more justice than system; if it actually had hard evidence other than the testimony of a scared little child that probably thought all black people looked the same or a prosecutor and a judge that wasn’t out for… who knows what really.

I don’t want to assume anything and throw the “race” card out there but more often than not that seems to be the real case. It’s sad.

Sure, I have my misgivings about people who use the word “racist” to somehow get ahead in life, especially the people who already have everything but seem to think it will help them even more. I don’t know how it works that they can use a word to get power over you but I do know it sucks when people think you’re something that you’re not.

Mr. Towler is in his 50’s and was one of the many people released in 2010 because of DNA testing. I think that is amazing. I’ve never been in prison but something tells me it’s not a place I’d like to be, I don’t even know if I want to visit. I’ve seen the inside of a holding facility and that’s all I care to see.

If you’re interested in reading an actual article about Raymond Towler check out this one from Cincinnati Magazine entitled “The Correction“.

-VR