Category Archives: Geekery

DC Comics Reviews — Red Hood and The Outlaws

Alright boys and girls, it’s time for another DC comic review. I’m still playing catch up, so let’s get straight to my ratings on the number 2 issues.

DC’s “New 52” Issue 2

Green Lantern – 4/5
Green Lantern Corps -4/5
Green Lantern: The New Guardians -4/5
Red Lantern -4/5
Batman -4/5
Batman And Robin -5/5
Batman: The Dark Knight- 3/5
Detective Comics – 4/5
Superman – 4/5
Action Comics -5/5
Wonder Woman -2/5
The Flash – 4/5
Aquaman -5/5
Justice League -5/5
Nightwing – 4/5
Suicide Squad -5/5
Red Hood And The Outlaws -4/5

Now that the ratings are out of the way, I’m going to do something different and review a comic that has not gotten my “Best Of” criteria.  It’s one of the brand new titles, Red Hood And The Outlaws.

Image courtesy of ing.com

Sidekicks going anti-heros…how cool is that?  I say it’s pretty amazing.  Since the release of the animated film Batman: Under The Red Hood, Jason Todd has been gaining a following of fans.  That’s kind of surprising for a guy that was voted by the fans to be killed a few years ago.  But thanks to a retconned DC universe, the former Robin is back, armed to the teeth with a take-no-prisoner attitude and a few deadly weapons.

He’s not alone. Joining him are two former teen heroes: Arsenal(Formally Speedy/ Red Arrow) and Starfire.

The whole first issue is introduction and serves to establish each character’s personality; Jason is the detached brooding protagonist, Arsenal is the clingy wannabe best friend/ comic relief, and Starfire is the alien that views us from an outside perspective.  All in all, a fun team.

This issue focuses on their relationships with each other.  But, of course, it shows how The Outlaws fight crime. They make sure that when crime goes down, it stays down…with a few bullet holes…and maybe an arrow through the throat for good measure.

I love this team.

You have two former sidekicks who had a hard past: one with heroin and the other with…you know, death. You also have
an alien princess who has no idea about human morality.

I wasn’t around when Arsenal was addicted to drugs or when DC set up a 1-800 number to vote whether or not Jason Todd would die, but I’m with them now and loving the anti-hero perspective.  And yes they all live up to their anti-hero label. There has not been an issue when a “bad guy” hasn’t died.

Also, I’m going to say that this is a title for a more mature audience.  First, you have the violence that is in each issue. Then, you have Starfire, who basically stays half naked throughout both issues.

Adult.

The second issue sets up the story arc, following Jason Todd as he retraces his steps from the beginning to figure out why he was resurrected. A few witty remarks and a flashback later, the team is surrounded by zombie warrior monks. Violent showdown time, with Red Hood chopping through people like they were butter alongside Arsenal shooting arrows and Starfire blasting…I guess…fire.

Violence sells and I’m buying.

Maybe it’s because I really don’t know much of the backstories of all these characters, but I have no idea where the current story is going. That excites me.  It’s been too long since I’ve read a story that I haven’t been able to predict the ending.  I’m usually pretty good about guessing what is going to happen, but with Red Hood I have no idea.  All I can say is that this is shaping up to be one of my new favorite comic books.  Sex, violence and adventure: what more do you
need out of an anti-hero type comic?

My favorite thing is the artwork.  It has a roughness about it that I absolutely adore.  It’s mostly in the gritty inkwork of Kenneth Rocafort that makes this book stand out amongst the rest of your average super-team book.  It makes it look like the world is dirty and pockmarked.  And something about Arsenal wearing a domino mask and a truckers hat just tickles me pink.

Nothing makes me happier than new material and not the same regurgitated stories that we all know.  I know I’m beating a dead horse since I’m rooting for the underdog, but old sidekicks getting their own book? Fantastic. Characters that were thrown to the wayside by their former audience have a chance to shine in this new series.

Plus, if you’re a Batman reader, I suggest buying this book because it deals heavily in the Batman/Gotham story.  That  should be expected with a former Robin leading the way.

Do you think that these sidekicks turned vigilantes deserve their own book?  Do those of you that have read it have any predictions?

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Super Style: From the Con to the Runway

Five Superhero Styles (That Aren’t T-Shirts!)

Offices tend to frown on wearing underwear outside your clothing. Same with winged helmets. Don’t even think about rocking a jumpsuit! Unless you’re heading to the danger zone with Maverick, you tend to get some strange looks.

But, just because you can’t go full cosplay everyday doesn’t mean you can’t find subtle ways to show your allegiance. From high fashion to fun-derwear from the wading pool to the wedding ceremony, here are some sly ways to be subversively super.

Image courtesy of nOir Jewelry

Image courtesy of nOir Jewelry

1.Gotham Fabulous
Noir Jewelry’s DC Collection let’s you be a hero or a villain. Supergirl rocks her S across her chest, but for a mere $500 you can rock yours across your neck.

Maybe your tastes go darker? We’re loving this Gotham City ring ($225). Not only is it hella chic, it could come in handy in a fight should you run into some goons. With prices from $65-$500, this is special occasion stuff, but come on, who wouldn’t feel more confident walking into a board room wearing their favorite Amazonian’s cuffs ($140)?

2. Finding Namor
Ok, so Speedos are rarely, if ever, a do. I’m not saying that this is a good thing; I’m just saying this exists. Awkwardly pursue your own Sue Storm poolside in these tiny trunks ($29.95).

Unless you’re into DC, then you’re totally dressing as a warm water Aquaman.

3. Stealing PeeGee’s Look
Ok, so this might not be everyday style, but it is interesting to see Power Girl’s look go from the convention floor the runway.

Victoria’s Secret’s annual Fashion Show won’t air until Nov. 29. Until then you’ll just have to look to your books for women with impossible bodies in physics defying fabrics…well, there or the Internet, movies, or television…

4. Strutting It Spider Style
Have your own ideas how Spider-Man 3 should have ended? (Who doesn’t? Let’s never speak of it again.) A new climactic battle is at the end of your feet with these hand painted shoes ($110).

Prefer to keep it more noir? How about the Dark Knight and Clown Prince of Crime($110)? Etsy seller WalkingDeadApparel says that he/she can create just about any superhero pairing. Get creative! The possibilities are endless! Hulk and Banner! Thor and Loki! Tony Stark and a bottle of Jack Daniels!

Image courtesy of vintagecovers

5. The Phantom iPad
If you have an iPad odds are pretty good you’re already using it to read digital comics. Why not save one from your analog collection or from Etsy seller VinageCovers’ collection and turn it into an iPad cover ($54)?

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Rocking the Boat – Twilight and Trolls

With the release today of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, I’ve noticed two things.

1.) My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been blowing up with people who love Twilight.
2.) My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been blowing up with people who hate Twilight.

This guy is all over the internet. He might even be you.

It’s interesting to me that a book meant for young adults generates so much emotion. But so does everything that is popular. Especially in geek culture.

Go to nearly any message board that deals with Geekery. I bet that you’ll find at least one post within ten minutes that is full of pure vitriol for the given subject. And I’ve seen AWESOME things being hated on.

Zelda II. Batman Begins (after The Dark Knight came out). Hate over a video game review. Hate over a funny video someone posted. Hate over a previous message board post. Hate. Hate. Hate.

It even happens in my own house! My wife really hates Apple products. She doesn’t know why. I’m not sure if she’s even used an Apple product beyond playing Angry Birds on my iPhone, but she will insist vehemently that she hates Apple.

And that’s my biggest problem, I think. People are hating on things without reason. I was recently in a conversation with a friend who told me he hated Twilight. He hadn’t read the books, but had seen the third movie. How did he know he hated it?

I hated Harry Potter for awhile. I once started a novel about a boy who discovers he has magical powers, his parents die in a tragedy, etc. Then Harry Potter came out, and my dreams were pretty much dashed. I resented it for a long time. Until I read a couple of the books and watched the movies. I really, really liked it. I felt stupid for being such a troll hater.

I’m going to give you guys a tip. This is free advice, from a guy who has been on the internet for nearly two decades:

You know who else isn't courteous? This guy.

Use courtesy.

Listen, if you are going out of your way to post on message boards in order to vitriolically hate on something, stop. You’re not bettering yourself. You’re not bettering the conversation.

If you are posting Facebook messages about how stupid something is (and I’ve seen plenty of these with Twilight’s newest release), I want you to look in the mirror or turn on your webcam and look at yourself. Then, I want you to point at yourself and say these words.

“I’m a douchebag, and I need to stop.”

Listen, there are plenty of reasons to hate things. Call people stupid for liking things is, for lack of a better term, stupid. How about instead of going for an emotional appeal in your hatred, try instead going for a rational one. You’ll learn how arguments work, you’ll learn a bit about human nature, and you’ll be a better person for it.

So, let me say this.

I don’t like Twilight because it is written poorly. Here are a bunch of examples.

Isn’t that ultimately more satisfying?

You can be smart, courteous, and still hate Twilight!

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DC Comics Reviews – Aquaman Focus

Welcome to my first comic review. Here is how it’s  going to work. Each week I will read the comics that I get and rate each one on a scale of 1-5, then pick one to review in depth. Most times the comic I will review will be what I think is best that week, other times it will be the worst. Additionally, any comic that gets a rating of 4/5 should be considered on par. Ratings of 5/5 will be given to books that I think are going above and beyond the expected story. If anybody disagrees with my ratings, I am open for discussion at most times. I am always willing to voice my opinions and debate. Also, you may notice that I concentrate on DC Comics.

For this first article, I will rate all of the issues 1’s of “The New 52” that I am currently getting. Since both issues 1 and 2 are out for all my titles the next article will rate number 2’s. After that it will be a weekly thing with only a few issues on each list. For now though I’ve got a lot of ground to cover!

This ain't your daddy's Aquaman. Image courtesy Toledo Free Press

“Green Lantern”- 3/5
“Green Lantern Corps” – 4/5
“Green Lantern: The New Guardians”- 4/5
“Red Lantern”- 3/5
“Batman”-4/5
“Batman And Robin”-5/5
“Batman: The Dark Knight”- 3/5
“Detective Comics”- 3/5
“Superman”- 4/5
“Action Comics”-5/5
“Wonder Woman”- 4/5
“The Flash”- 4/5
“Aquaman”- 5/5
“Justice League”- 5/5
“Teen Titans”-4/5
“Nightwing”- 4/5
“Red Hood And The Outlaws”- 4/5
“Suicide Squad”-5/5

As you can see a few issues earned a perfect score. When “The New 52” came out I had no idea what to expect, but I went in with an open mind.

The one that exceeded all of my hopes was Aquaman. Maybe being written by Geoff Johns has this effects on superheroes who aren’t as popular.

Years ago, I was one of the masses that considered Aquaman to be a useless superhero, all he could do was swim well and talk to fish. I hadn’t really read that much Aquaman, but after reading this first issue, it made me realize that I was missing out on one of the better stories in the DC universe.

It’s people like me that Geoff Johns was obviously trying to prove wrong in this issue. The first half of the book shows Aquaman interacting with the world and the world looking on in confusion. He stops an armored car robbery, kicks the crap out of the robbers and gets shot all in the first few pages. The whole time he has to listen to people’s misconceptions about him. They ask him if he talks to fish, and wonder why he is so far away from the water. Basically think of a group of people that only know about Aquaman from watching “Super Friends.”  It’s almost as they expect him to come riding in on a giant seahorse. There is even a guy that asks Aquaman while he is sitting in a restaurant, “How’s it feel to be nobody’s favorite superhero?” To which Aquaman quietly picks up his trident and leaves. And all throughout the book you see these creatures that look like humanoid angler fish rising up from what they call the “Trench.” I don’t know about you but those kind of fish with the huge eyes and uneven teeth creep me out to no end.

And I love it; this looks like the making of a horror/action arc that will hopefully introduce a new group of enemies to DC. It’s almost if Geoff Johns was using this first issue to dispel all of the stereotypes that have surrounded Aquaman for the last 30 years or so. For that he has my thanks.

Aquaman shows his worth. Image courtesy Comic books, Movies, Comic Book Movies

I think it is good for DC to try to promote what we would consider their “B List” heroes. For too long the Dark Knight and the Big Blue Boyscout have had center stage. Green Lantern had his revival and so has The Flashl it’s about time that we start to focus on heroes that have never been offered a movie deal. Get Aquaman’s name out there, give him a crossover series like “Blackest Night”.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m sick of Batman. Maybe I’m still resentful that the “Green Lantern” live action movie didn’t do that well. All I know that it’s refreshing to see a hero take his criticism in stride and still go on to save the day. Every person reading this article should go out and buy “Aquaman” number 1. It only costs $2.99 (thank you DC). I’m just saying give the issue a chance, and you will be surprised at how much you enjoy a guy in a fish scale shirt and green pants flipping an armored car like it was a tinker toy.

Disagree? Agree? Sound off in the comments. Or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Security Specialist Penalized For Discovering Flaw

Software manipulator Charlie Miller discovered a small, but potentially critical flaw in Apple iOS’s app market. As it turns out a malicious app can be uploaded to the market by a hacking ne’er do well who can then manipulate the phone into giving away personal information or performing functions (like texting) without the owner’s knowledge.

Miller, who informed Apple about the flaw, was promptly banned from the iOS developer program for a year. In the process of discovering and testing the flaw, Miller created an app disguised as a stock ticker and had it approved by for distribution in the app store. According to CNN,

That app only was capable of hurting his own devices, he said, and was uploaded to the App Store to test the bug. “It’s not evil or bad or anything,” he said. “It never even downloads code and runs it unless I run it.” It since has been removed from the App Store.

Apple argues that Miller developed a program that obscured and misrepresented his app, against the express agreements iOS developers consent to. Miller cites his extensive history of malware whistle-blowing and his honesty-after-the-fact as reasons to take him at his word.

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Comic Book Wednesday – Distribution

I’m going to generate some controversy today.

I was originally going to just publish a list of comic book releases, but I realized that other places did it better than I could, and I didn’t think a list would be very interesting.

So, instead, let’s have a discussion. You and me. You love comics. I love comics. Maybe you love them more. Maybe less. However, I think that you and I can both agree that the industry has problems. Some big, some small. Some require tweaks, some require a complete change in how the comics business is run.

Let me get this out of the way. I love comic shops. I LOVE THEM.

See that? I used capitals to show you how much I love them. However, I’m not convinced that they are entirely good for the industry.

When I was a kid (really, I’m not that old), comic books could be found in grocery stores, drugstores, and, sometimes, gas stations. Comics are a great impulse buy, but many people aren’t going to buy on impulse if the comics aren’t visible. If I saw comic books in the checkout lane at the grocery store, I would totally pick up one while I was buying milk. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

I don’t want comic shops to go away, but I want comics to expand into other stores. I really don’t think that it would hurt comic shops all that much. Although, it might make some of them work on customer service more…that might be a plus. I’ve been in some unfriendly comic stores (until you prove yourself as “one of them,” anyway).

Next problem: Diamond Comic Distributors. That name shakes every comic publisher to the core. The current business model is that the publishers write, pencil, ink, color, and print the comics, and Diamond is basically the only company that distributes comics. They have had exclusive rights with all major publishers since 1997.  The Justice Department investigated and concluded that Diamond has a monopoly on comic books, but (and here’s where it gets tricky) nothing could be done because the monopoly didn’t include books. See, Diamond is officially a book distributor, not a comics distributor. Bada-bing, bada-boom. The Justice Department couldn’t do anything.

Diamond is the Dr. Doom of comic books.

Diamond charges 60 percent of the cover price for their part in distributing comics. The retailers charge 25 percent to stock. This leaves the publisher with 15 percent of the cover price to pay its creative people and print costs. Do you wonder why comics are up to $4 now? Diamond is effectively driving the prices up. This also makes it nearly impossible for small start-up publishers to recoup their costs.

Unfortunately, I think the only thing that is going to break Diamond’s grip on the comics industry is digital distribution.

Seriously, though. Diamond’s logo looks like a LexCorp reject.

I love books; I love the feel, the smell, the turning of the pages. But, let’s face it, books are probably on the way out. E-readers are becoming too affordable, publishers don’t have to pay for printing and shipping costs, and it’s becoming more economically and environmentally sound. Comic publishers have already signed deals with Amazon and Barnes & Noble for exclusive rights on their tablet devices.

I really don’t think this is change that comic book shops deserve. I don’t want them to go away. Unfortunately, this might be the change that the comic industry needs.

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The Cupcakes Are Not a Lie

 

There’s not much I can think of that geeks love more than chocolate! What’s not to love? It’s delicious, chock-full of calories and sugar, and caffeinated (for those late night Xbox Live parties or D&D sessions). Studies have shown that chocolate is even beneficial for your health by giving you antioxidants to fight off free radicals and lowering blood pressure—though the benefits are from the cocoa powder itself, as opposed to all the sugar and fat added, but who’s counting?!

For my birthday, my friends got together and made me a cake designed after the one at the end of the game Portal—a three layer chocolate cake complete with whipped cream and berries on top. It was so rich, however, that it was difficult for three people to finish eating before it started going bad. So for portion control, we opted to make cupcakes this time!

But look at me still talking when there’s baking to do!

To launch The Cool Ship’s Arts and Crafts section, I bring you:

Deadly Neurotoxin-Free Cupcakes

Here’s what you need:

Chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge)
Chocolate Icing
2 bags of Dark Chocolate Chips (full of antioxidants!)
White icing
Red Mini M&Ms (1 bag of the Red and Green Christmas M&Ms will do nicely)
Cupcake pan liners or Non-stick cooking spray

I demonstrate proper smooshing technique for maximum chocolate chipness.

Preheat oven and prepare cake batter as instructed on the box. Put the bags of chocolate chips and M&Ms in the fridge, as the kitchen may get warm and cause them to melt. We wouldn’t want that, now would we?

Fill the cups about 2/3 full of cupcake batter. Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Frost cupcakes with a moderate amount of icing. Pour a small amount of the chocolate chips onto a saucer so that they form a single layer. Take the cupcakes one by one and place icing first onto the layer of chocolate chips. Give a gentle push on the bottom, to ensure maximum chocolate chip coverage. Lift cupcake and tamp down the chocolate chips, filling any gaps by hand. Place cupcakes in the fridge for about 5 minutes, to allow icing to stiffen.

Using a fine tipped decorating bag (or the icing that comes with several shaped tips), gently squeeze 8 small dots of white icing along the circumference of the cupcake. Top with red mini-M&Ms. Add a candle and invite your friend, the companion cube, to the party.

Please be advised that a noticeable taste of blood is not part of the cupcake’s ingredients, but is an unintended side effect of the cupcake’s ingredients which may—in semi-rare cases—emancipate crowns, dental fillings, tooth enamel, and teeth.

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