Double Fine Adventure was what turned me into a Kickstarter fiend for a few months. The only thing that ended that fun was a mix of finances and seeing certain projects I funded just take way too long. Still I pledged $100 to DFA with trust in what Tim Schafer and Nathan “Bagel” Stapley coming together and combining their efforts to create a modern point and click adventure based off the strength of Tim’s previous work and where it’d lead had he not had to move on to things such as Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. This is not a commentary on those games, but more to explain my views of what became BROKEN AGE and my feelings towards it versus how certain reviews and opinions have formulated based on preconceived expectations based on misunderstanding and lack of comprehension on the part of the backers.
Being a backer meant that for the last two weeks I have gotten to playtest, look for bugs, analyze the game and prepare for whatever post release onslaught could be coming. The fans on the boards who were negative… and I mean NEGATIVE and I can understand most of their issues. Yet, those issues are mostly based in falsehood expectations that they had. Not one of them have I heard complain about the story or the art. Many of them have complained about length and character, but the second is to each his own. Some people love Natural Born Killers, others hate it, the same with True Blood, My Little Pony, Ben 10, Batman and many many other things. One person will say the character was full of emption and I could really relate and another person of the same exact character can say they had no emotion and could not relate at all. These are things that happen with every creative piece of art ever made and BROKEN AGE truly is a piece of art and it is a game.
It is is not an interactive story, or an animated children’s book which you can press buttons on. It is the perfect example of an adventure game that exists as it would’ve had if when Double Fine was created did nothing but point n click games. This is how they would evolve. They wouldn’t just be retreads of Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle or even Grim Fandango, but the next step, following the path that gaming has taken from going casual, back to hardcore, a return to casual and then reaching a happy medium that isn’t exactly a perfect balance and definitely won’t please all, but would allow for something fun, creative, purposeful, enjoyable, engaging and for some challenging, while others truly easy. For those who find it too easy though they would be getting something that no other game possessed. A special kind of charm, a witty humor, a sense of logic and story building that only Tim Schafer and a team he helped hand select could create.
My personal largest issue is people saying this is not what they expected and yet their expectations are all based on their own personal nostalgia and conception of what a Tim Schafer game is instead of the reality of it or at least to sound less biased, that there is another view of that and that the most important one is Tim Schafer’s. I will leave this argument and focus more now on the game itself and a couple of facts on the history of Tim Schafer games and Double Fine.
I feel to look properly at BROKEN AGE we must skip Monkey Island, as those were mostly Ron Gilbert games in which Tim got input but did not show us what type of game he would make. Day of the Tentacle is the first place when one sees the type of game Tim would make. Something that would take the genre to the next place. While multiple characters had been used in Maniac Mansion, finding a way to have those characters work together was new. DOTT was not as hard as people seem to remember though. Dave Grossman co-directed it and lots of his work which would be seen later on Moop & Dreadly and the Telltale Games catalog was definitely in place here… and they were equally Tim’s. Simplifying things to extract humor and thoughts but not making things so hard. The same can be said with Full Throttle, a game that was much more about fun, humor and story then trying to make things hard or complicated. It was short and balanced and even combined a difficult but not impossible action sequences, the first hint that Tim felt the best way to expand the genre was to simplify puzzles and add different types of gameplay. Full Throttle also showed Tim’s great and intriguing choices in voice casting and focusing on getting performances that would really show off his hilarious quips and really thought out storytelling. Mark Hamill, Maurce LaMarche, Tress Macneille, all inspired choices who at the time were established actors known to animation and genre fans worldwide. Then with Grim Fandango he flipped EVERYTHING upside down and made a 3D game with difficult controls, an abstract plot and even more abstract casting with voices everyone knew… Tony Plana, Maria Canals, Alan Blumenfeld and Pamela Segall-Adlon were all established actors with careers. It was an indication that if Tim could he’d really reach as far and as wide to get performances above and beyond that of a normal video game. The kind of performances we have all slowly now gotten used to, but back then… not even close to the norm.
Then… Tim Schafer stopped making point and click adventure games. Psychonauts had puzzles, but it was also an action platformer and one that took that genre into new directions with a heavy emphasis on conversations, visual cues, great storytelling with depth, and amazing acting performances. There was some really interesting casting on it with Armin Shimmerman, Josh Keaton and Tara Strong. He also proved a dedication using a lot of the talent from Throttle and Fandango. Then came Brutal Legend, turning the entire third person action adventure game in new ways and at times trying to do also way too much by adding Real Time Strategy. Yet, inspired casting, dialogue and story really leaped and showed Tim’s true talents as a director. Jack Black, Brian Posehn, Tim Curry, Jennifer Hale, Cree Summer and of course getting those legends of Rock.
After Brutal Legend and how it fared though Double Fine went smaller and Tim became a department head, while other voices in Double Fine showed how equally awesome they were. Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade, Middle Manager of Justice were all brilliant and definitely Double Fine games which also felt like Tim games even with Tasha Harris, Lee Petty, Brad Muir and Kee Chi as directors.
All this brings us to BROKEN AGE and I’ll start with this. I love it, I understand any negative reviews and complaints but respectfully disgaree with them and I think this is something all gamers who want a new experience that at the same time feels old. Tim’s handprint is all over this thing. The jokes are aplenty and funny. Some are easily missed if you don’t experiment at illogical things, but there comes the real fun of adventure games. This is the linchpin of everything for me. Tim has created something that is funny, heart warming and full of depth. Are the puzzles easy? I guess. I’ve seen plenty of people also stating they were stuck in places and actually turning to a walk-through or asking for a hint, so I think the balance has been hit. A delicate balance that any game of this type will have had trouble juggling. I believe they have done so successfully. We also really get everything we’ve gotten from Tim in the past, innovation, the next step. This is the game he’d of made in 2014 as an adventure game especially if Psychonauts and Brutal Legend were point and clicks if he had complete control without publishers and never turning to Kickstarter in the first place. Turn to Kickstarter he did though and that created a whole different setup. Because this might not be the game he would’ve made under a publisher. A publisher would’ve maybe given him that little amount asked for and then he’d make a game and publishers would complain instead of fans. All this could be wrong, but it’s what I feel and isn’t that what reviews are, feelings?
I think the biggest thing that makes BROKEN AGE special is twofold.
Firstly, taking the evolution of casting to the next level. Tim brought in a ton of old friends along with him, including the folks with him since Day of the Tentacle and even bringing back Jack Black, as well as Cree Summer and even recruiting Wil Wheaton again. It’s the NEW people that are so exciting though. In the leads Elijah Wood (yes, that guy!), Masasa Moyo (best known for Team America: World Police and Young Justice), and David Kaufman (Danny Phantom and animated Jimmy Olsen); joining them in minor roles are major voice actresses like Hynden Welch and Grey Delisle with a final extra special appearance by the creator of Adventure Time & Bravest Warriors (and the voice of Spacy Lump Princess) Pen Ward. It’s like the greatest cast ever in forever for anything.
Secondly is the art style. No game has ever looked like this, because no game has ever tried to look like a painting by Nathan Stapley (well other than the Flash game on Double Fine.com based on his comic book). While he’s been an employee at Double Fine for a long time and was previously at Lucas Arts, his personal work is something special and other worldly. His palette and style has a frenetic energy that has not been seen by many… not even his occasional mate and fellow Double Fine employees Scott Campbell, Levi Ryken or Lee Petty. “Bagel” is a very special artist and that comes through every image in the game. While Peter Chan and the other artists I mentioned had a major part in the concept art, the final look of this thing is still all through the eye of Nathan. Words really do it no justice, so here’s two screen shots. One from the “fantasy” world and one from the “space” world. Both have all the artistic influences in here and really show off how absolutely beautiful this game is.
The final word from me is you need to get BROKEN AGE. Be it now (released February 28th, 2014) off STEAM to experience the awesomeness of ACT 1 and marvel at an amazing Part 1 or waiting for the whole game off of Humble and other sources. I say play it now… as you get the entire game. Also grab the soundtrack.
Richard Artschwager (89, complications of stroke, American, Painter, sculptor)
Jack Beal (82, American, Realist painter)
Jon Bell Jr. (76, complications of cancer, American, painter)
Michael Patrick Cronan (61, Cancer related, American, Graphic Designer and Brand Identity)
Antonio Frasconi (93, Born in Argentina, raised in Uruguay, lived in America, Woodcut)
Mitchell Hooks (90, American, Illustrator, most known for movie posters and pulp novel covers)
Pasha P183 (29, undisclosed causes, Russian, muralist/painter/graffiti artist)
Henk Peeters (84, Dutch, minimalist)
Shozo Shimamoto (85, Japanese, Avant Garde Emperimentalist)
Merton D Simpson (84, American, abstract expressionist)
Storm Thorgerson (69, cancer, British, graphic designer, best known for some of the most well known album covers for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many more)
Wen-Ying Tsai (84, Born in China, lived in America, Sculptor/Cybernetics)
Oleg Vassiliev (82, Born in Russia, lived in America Nonconformist)
Arturo Vega (65, undisclosed causes, American, Painter/Designer, most known for creating the iconic Ramones logo and being their official/unofficial spokesperson)
Charles Waterhouse (89, American, painter mostly of military scenes)
> CONNECT host:www.hacknslashthegame.com port:80
> SEND ApplicationData
>> GET /download/hacknslashannouncement.txt HTTP/1.1
>> Host: hacknslashthegame.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS)
DOUBLE FINE ANNOUNCES PUZZLE ACTION GAME HACK ’N’ SLASH
Former Amnesia Fortnight Prototype to Launch in First Half 2014, Supported by Indie Fund and friends of Double Fine
SAN FRANCISCO–December 10, 2013–Double Fine Productions today announced that Hack ‘n’ Slash, a hacking themed puzzle action game for Windows, Mac, and Linux, will release in the first half of 2014. A version of the game debuted during Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight 2012 internal game jam. It was selected by the gaming public to be turned into a two-week prototype, after garnering more votes than any other Amnesia Fortnight pitch.
In Hack ‘n’ Slash, a young elf uses her computer hacking skills to cheat her way through a classic action/adventure game. The game was funded by Indie Fund, Humble Bundle, Hemisphere Games, make all, AppAbove Games, Adam Saltsman, The Behemoth, Morgan Webb, and Rob Reid as part of a two-game deal that also includes Spacebase DF-9, which released in Early Access Alpha and recouped its investment within two weeks.
“I’ve always loved games with lots of secrets in them,” said Hack ‘n’ Slash project lead Brandon Dillon, “and when I first discovered a hex editor in an emulator, it dawned on me that I could be a kind of digital treasure hunter—no game could keep even its deepest secrets from me if I adventured long enough in its code and memory.”
By subverting old-school gaming tropes with unique hacking mechanics, Hack ‘n’ Slash allows non-programmer players to experience that same sense of mystery and discovery.
“Look, I’m going to be honest with you here: I don’t really understand what’s going on inside this game’s code,” said Double Fine president and CEO Tim Schafer, who claims to possess a degree in computer science. “I believe it contains ‘algorithms.’ But I know what’s going on inside my heart when I play it. And that is joy.”
“We’re psyched to be helping with Hack’n'Slash because Amnesia Fortnight projects are about empowering individual creators,” said Indie Fund partner Ron Carmel, who definitely possesses a degree in computer science. “And I can confirm that this game’s code does contain algorithms.”
Hack ‘n’ Slash will be released for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam and DRM-free in the first half of 2014. It will include algorithms.
> CONNECT host:hacknslashthegame.com port:443
> SEND ClientHello suites:TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA certs:x509 random:xIl3HWupPdsvwY94XV3UHtW04aE/wT4X8p7FmdSxW5w=
RECV ServerHello random:Up2+Rmzxa4CFywMpfAMCBn7wJHaiBnwEGslWPq4QaTQ=
RECV Certificate [verified]
> SEND ClientKeyExchange premaster:AwKV0UmxkA/iXZ4Y4NDn0P1Ju/m6GNL10FR7PuJae/83Ghy3Eo+6qDiJwQsNzjyB
… [encrypting provided premaster]
… [computing master key]
… [sending ChangeCypherSpec]
… [computing verify_data:Tcz7sewhNdF70Xmd]
… [sending Finished]
… [sending ApplicationData encrypted_payload:9Uxik4wGjQEoga0gznSZM7H+x4gnbdG9iqVwCOucgvE=]
… [sending ApplicationData encrypted_payload:Z41sWWPE2pPTxXnfbb/ju+g9NGrE/7gMltSvCW2J5aLCjH0R5k8E1iHJydJ1OuguAyZqKPlUDOxVZ6I1dnIJkPBXre5y2wcZU5misdX8Hk+exdqsbpjeDRwQKxwxcOTm]
I have not truly amazingly had the luck to actually date many fellow nerds in my life. This isn’t to say I haven’t dated, jut I haven’t dated many nerds. The people who I consider my own. The comic fans, the wrestling fans, the sci-fi fans, the video gamers… now I have been with those people, but generally more than not I’ve been with people who actually were not on the same wave length as me. Not from lack of knowing where to find them, ask them out or any of that. Just the luck of the draw here.
Still I know there are plenty guys out there who can’t even get to that first step or even if they do, what to do next and after that or even after that. When you grow up watching Thundercats, playing Super Mario and reading Booster Gold while rolling dice for a D & D game and discussing the merits of Ric Flair over Roddy Piper on the phone with your friend whose thinking about his acne and multiple allergies, how to go out with the opposite or even same sex is gong to be an art you never really learn.
That’s where THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING by Eric Smith comes into play or at least that how’d I’d sell it if I was a marketing person. Oh wait, I am… but that’s not where I’m coming from in this review.
I’ll admit even I might not be nerdy enough for this book. Some references were completely and totally lost on me. I’ve never been into Firefly, I’m not a big Link fan, I don’t know HALO from a brick in the wall… but I somehow still know what Eric was going for with each reference so it was never completely lost on me.
In many ways this isn’t just a geek’s guide to dating, but a clever voice in just basic logic of dating, understanding the ways and what fors of finding it, going on it and what to do after said date. These are tips that can be used by anyone in our modern social media driven world of Facebook, twitter, Foursquare and more. It’s just painted to attract an audience that would not necessarily go for it while being open enough for a non geek to at least see the the great cover and start skimming to see what it contains, notice how concise the advice is and just be “Huh, I could use this”.
One other great aspect that is a huge selling point to me is the cool Kickpixel pieces. I can’t really say anything about them, they just look awesome especially since I love 8 bit art even if I don’t like 8 bit games. Just look at this piece and if you don’t love it…I don’t know you. Even if you hate it, you still need this book. Actually if you hate it, you need this book more than anyone cause boy oh boy do you need some social tips.
GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING came out September 3rd from QUIRK BOOKS and is a 5 x9 hardcover priced at $14.95
The YA book THE CREATURE DEPARTMENT is full of fun, excitement, suspense, humor, yummy food, corporate espionage, memories, and lovable folks. The writer Robert Paul Weston really created something absolutely wonderful in prose. A whole new “universe” that is full of more to explore once you’ve put the book down. If the book was just words it would stand strongly and be a worthwhile read, but the art and illustrations made up by Zack Lydon and the entire team at Framestore really made it a book to behold and enjoy.
The most amazing part is that when the book was just in galley format with just possible sketches it truly blew me away. These sketches became paintings and in the case of one Gugor, who has also made appearances at Book Expo America and New York Comic Con 2013 delighting buyers, readers, kids and unsuspecting adults alike, a fully realized CGI model.
The best to show that off is to actually show you some of that development.
Here’s an image of Gugor from the galley:
this is an image of color painting Gugor from the official book trailer:
Here’s a 3D model:
and this is the Final Gugor at Book Expo and then at New York Comic Con where there was an amazing display (which you can see in the image that tops this review/article/presentation):
As charming and as wonderful as these images are they barely capture the essence of the book and the images contained within it (both through the words and the actual illustrations). The book introduces us to an assortment of amazing characters with immense personality and the setting for what could one day be both an amazing series of books as well as an excellent TV series. There is something inherently perfect in super smart kids, above average parents, a crazy scientist and a town that from the outside seems completely normal and quaint but hides an amazing secret, a secret that is actually one that for all we know is actually a reality in our world. I mean seriously, Bacon Chapstick? That sounds like something only a creature could figure out how to make right.
Navigating through NYCC each year can be quite an adventure. I’ve been going since year one and while I always have an amazing time, know my way around and have contacts in places, even I get lost in the shuffle of it all. Panels pop at last minute, schedules change. All that, and more. This presentation of collected links is something a little different though.
This is for those NYCCer attendees who are either attending all four days or just have that ONE big panel they wanted to go to and don’t intend to explore New York City itself. Because? You don’t have to. By all means, if you are on Vacation and using NYCC as an excuse to come to New York then take full advantage. Yet I know there are plenty folks like me who live here or maybe just want to experience comic con. If that’s the case even with a full schedule there will be hours of time where you’ll be “What now?” and instead of just standing there trying to be “I’ll just play more Zelda or stand around the Marvel booth” I went and looked up some interesting stuff for you to check out.
First up are some booths that could if anything provide moments of enjoyment and add to that getting the bang for your buck experience:
8-Bit Bakery: Video game inspired cookies, cakes and brownies
Electro-Flash Media : Activated Light-Up Apparel
Animated Closet: Beautiful clothing
GameChanger World: Mobile gaming company
STL Ocarina: Instruemnt making compay focusing on Ocarinas, and specially made Zelda ones at this time too.
Roadhouse Sons: A graphic novel, a prose novel series, a band and I think a cartoon… defintely one to check out.
Chop-Chop Store: Graphic Design Tees
and here’s a cadre of links of just info that you might want handy at NYCC, just things that caught my eye that could be on interest to someone.
A Listing of Parties before and after NYCC
A listing of Dark Horse’s panels and Booth Signings schedule
Info on some of the Paid Autographs and Photo Ops arranged by Froggy’s Photos
Info on Frank Bello of Anthrax at NYCC
Info on Image Comics Signing and their Party
Info on special Return to Nuke’Em High signing at TROMA booth
Cosplay as an Archie Character as a Zombie and win special prizes from Archie
The Soska Sisters and Glen Jacobs will be presenting See No Evil 2
Info on BOOM Studios panels and signings
More cool Archie Comics info for NYCC
Info on what NINTENDO is bringing
Here’s info on panels from TBS and TNT
Like Muppets? This link is for you!
Would you enjoy scavanger hunting for one of a kind crochet pieces that would be yours free? Check out this!
Info on John Dixon’s giveaway/signing for his upcoming PHOENIX ISLAND
all this is also just TIP of the Iceberg…
BIG ASS SPIDER! is something you definitely want to be aware of (if you’re like me)
and new news on THE FIFTH BEATLE
and really hitting up Artist’s Alley…
and just being ready for the unknown!
If you read Twitter through Discover or #RAW while watching WWE RAW on the night of September 30th, 2013 you may have noticed that there were many posts that included #IamCHIKARA or if you tend to follow many wrestlers or people who write about wrestling you might have noticed it as trending if you have trends marked for tailored (which I’d say 98% of people do).
If you aren’t a member of the CHIKARA 101 message board or a fan of CHIKARA who didn’t jump ship when you thought it sank at the end of iPPV Anniversario: Never Compromise earlier this year you were probably scratching your head. If you don’t know what CHIKARA is (other possibly being a Japanese word) then you REALLY were scratching your head.
To explain CHIKARA is not the simplest thing in the world. While clips of slow motion action, amazing comedy bits, impressive action, and some of the most ridiculous costumes ever will let you get the visual and aural treat, I’m not sure if you aren’t already indoctrinated to appreciate wrestling or the concept of wrestling as a quality style of entertainment equivalent to watching your favorite sci-fiction or fantasy Television show then these videos will be just be mind numbing drivel to you.
Showing you a clip even of some hilarity inducing chuckles even one where a man dressed as a marching band leader hiding in a closet discusses his age with a lawyer who mysteriously looks a lot like him but is NOT him yet shares the same birthdate to the year, day and time will be lost on you.  Even if you catch and appreciate that the marching band’s leader last name is Peck and when speaking of his father he seems to be speaking of Walter Peck, the lead human “bad guy” from Ghostbusters who went onto to work for mysterious government organizations (as seen in both the 80′s cartoon and the 2009 video game) it just is also a bit confusing, especially as this nugget of information or the true explanation of this character, who is known as Archibald Peck has claims of time travel and apparently he has doppelgangers created by time paradox. Although it is things of this nature that have kept the fans on their feet.
It is not the first weird thing to have ever been done though. This same company has been basically a bastion where every weird, silly, strange, and now looked upon poorly but with reverence silliness that happened in 1980′s WWF and early 90′s WCW is considered something to be treated with respect and a better understanding of where it comes from. These aren’t just talented performers playing out roles, but people who LOVE and admire what influences their roles. These are Power Ranger, Pokemon, Voltron, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Marvel Comics, Airwolf, Back to the Future loving geeks who also happen to love working out, being acrobats, acting and of course wrestling. If they weren’t working there, they’d be fans. Hell, there are MANY talents who are seriously respected (as much as one is respected in the world of sports entertainment) whom would would say their greatest times in wrestling and enjoyment came from watching or being part of CHIKARA.
What CHIKARA gives to me a self proclaimed wrestling geek going all the way back to 1986 isn’t even an alternative to the product produced by the current WWE (which features many former CHIKARA talent at this time) or TNA mainstream product or even the awesomeness of Ring of Honor or Dragon Gate USA (both whom has used current or as the case may be in the current storyline former CHIKARA talent). It’s so much more, because there’s a sense of community and family that exists in the fans of this company that I have never thought I’d experience in this particular hobby. I always felt wrestling would be the ONE place where I’d never really gain not more than 1 or two friends who I felt could look at wrestling with the same eyes as I do or at least eyes and responses that I respect and appreciate. It is through CHIKARA I am reminded of what brought me to wrestling in the first place.
The current storyline has truly made that family aspect come alive. In mid 2013 after months of crazy story-lines involving time travel, grand plans, magical items, corporate stooges and more, the company was shut down by its “director of fun!” in the middle of the main event. The PPV was yanked off the air as a security force kicked fans out of the building. For a couple months fans didn’t even know what to think, they were left to assume that CHIKARA was done and this was their closing story, but it was ONLY just beginning. I honestly can’t recall the order of events but there were multiple happenings.
On what was/is the official forum community board for the fans known as The 101, where the company had conducted contests, reported information and actually developed storylines previously, in the midst of most of the roster lamenting the death of CHIKARA and unexpected voice, that of pro wrestler Icarus (at one time one of the most hated men in the company, but in the last few shows before closing seeming to possibly change, AND a competitor in that last unfinished match) saying CHIKARA would only die if we let it die. He rallied the fans. He even stated that he would be at one of the canceled shows and if you could be to be there to. A nice amount of fans showed up to that Easton, PA rally. I think shortly after is when the Youtube channel for Wrestling Is… a group of companies called COOL, HEART, INTENSE, FUN, AWESOME, RESPECT and ART (which spell out CHIKARA, the F stands for K because the championship belt in FUN is a banana and bannas have Potassium and the element sign for that is K… it makes sense, trust me) premiered what was called ASHES – “Prelude” which showed the founder of CHIKARA, Mike Quackenbush seeking a place to open a wrestling school with a very apparent CHIKARA logo at the end. Since that video there have been two other episodes, one which had elements only longtime CHIKARA fans would really get and which the happenings of have not seen any actual repercussions as of yet. The third though definitely let us know that the efforts of Icarus were not just fun and silliness but tied deeply into the larger storyline being told of the death and rebirth of CHIKARA.
Before this third episode aired, there was a second rally conducted on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At the time this happened a few weeks ago I was completely already pulled into the drama and excitement of all this hullabaloo and used it as an excuse to finally visit Philly in three years. I had an amazing trip there, in which I visited the offices of Quirk Books, ate amazing meals, met comedian and America’s Got Talent contestant Doogie Horner at his book signing and coincidentally at the same event the performer of the aforementioned “director of fun” who had ‘shut down’ CHIKARA, shot lots of photos streetart, visited historical places and eve by chance after the rally on the steps hung out with one of the new family members I had made I this fan community in which we had lunch and even went to a local wrestling show (which happened to one of the better wrestling shows I’d ever actually seen live or otherwise). Of course in between all that was the rally and I filmed and edited it and shared it on Youtube.
That brings us to Monday night with the #IamCHIKARA call on Twitter and now the next step on the plans. Icarus has asked us to reach out to our brethren, those who may not realize they could LOVE Chikara as much as we do, but if they open their hearts and minds they will discover it is truly a place for everyone and it has something for all. Ants, Clowns, Monkeys, Pirates, Knights, Apes, Gentleman, Living Nightmares, Cult Figures, Monsters, Living Icecream, Toilet Demons, Sexy Women, even Sexier Men, Old Time Baseball players, Action Movie Fights in Furniture Stores, Video Game Parodies, Duck, Duck, Goose, Leather Jackets on Emo Bad Boys, Cocky Jerks, Girls from Space, Gods of the Cosmos, and even… yes, even the kitchen sink.
I am CHIKARA… and so are you.
Paul Pope has done some awesome comics. Some of my favorite comics of all time actually. From his beginnings of Sin Titulo to the magic of THB, his mainstream work with an issue of the long lamented Spider-Man’s Tangled Web to his amazing Batman: Year 100 I was riding along. I was fortunate along that ride to have met him and spent time with not just as a fan but as an acquaintance and colleague so while we joke about it all the time, we go way back. It was things like his issue of SOLO and the 2007 PulpHope collection that cemented as a lifelong fan.
In 2012 though I saw a side of him I never realized existed. His work has always been dark, maybe even depressing and definitely adult. That year though he actually contributed a charming tale to the Adventure Time comic from BOOM! Kids which showed me he had heartwarming sensibilities that were still decisively Paul Pope.
Now with the upcoming BATTLING BOY (October 9th, 2013 with a a premiere release days later at New York Comic Con) he has shown me what charming, all ages work from Paul Pope can truly be with original characters, fisticuffs, fantasy, magic, and even sexiness in an accessible way while keeping that trademark style of heavy black inks, intricately detailed designs and just over the top weirdness.
BATTLING BOY seems to be telling two stories in one, but truly it is just one large story about that coming of age which can occur at various ages and for a variety of reasons.
Before we even meet the eponymous character at around what would be around the 10th page of issue 2 if this was released as a comic instead of a GN we meet a ton of characters, but most importantly a girl who soon has to grow up faster than she ever planned to in the most tragic of circumstances. One who feels she is both more than ready and who will never be ready for the challenges about to come her way. The city/world that BATTLING BOY exists in is fraught with danger, monsters, creatures, and even cosmic gods. Aurora West and her travails and tribulations are as important here as the ones we soon meet with the young Battling Boy. This lead character is from a lineage of warriors who force their young men to start adulthood early and possibly too early, but this is their way and it always has been. I almost feel like despite the very appropriate material for ages 10 & up that Paul is putting a little commentary in here. He could just of been influenced by some of the the greatest science fiction and fantasy novels of all time, but those themselves were social commentary.
What is so wonderful about BATTLING BOY is that as Paul intercedes this two young lives together with believability and a proper pacing, he also gives us insight into the everything surrounding them. We get an understanding of the government, the situations that the soldiers must deal with in a city under constant monster bombardment and we even peek into the minds and social lives of the evil ugly baddies at their secret shared watering hole.
On top of all that is the battle scenes. These are some of the best battle scenes ever. It helps that Battling Boy has a cool power associated with character shirts. It’s some really more hinted at in this first volume but knowing Paul it’ll really come to a head in the second. Luckily, based on my last conversation with Paul (at a watering hole actually) he’s deep into that second volume with even longer, better, crazier battles and I’m sure more of that great character and story.
BATTLING BOY is a hit out of the ballpark, grab it on October 9th at your local comic or book store (softcover $15.99/hardcover $24.99_ or if you’ll be at New York Comic Con grab it from First Second and since you’re in town head out to Society of Illustrators on October 11th for a special Paul Pope/Battling Boy event. Check out their site for more information and if you head to the Battling Boy book site you can also order the book there and see a preview from Issuu.
Doing something extra ordinary which one gets acknowledged for does not always happen. Getting acknowledged for feats that belong in a world record book? That happens even less frequently, but it does. Yet, it’s not often that a family garners multiple awards in the Guiness Book of World Records, the only type of record book of its like that I am aware exists. Yet in the Matthew Ward’s hilarious, fun, mysterious, dramatic and adventure romp The Fantastic Family Whipple such a family exists. A large family which has won awards for what may seem like the most mundane of things, such as (as these are ones I’m making up but I’m sure someone in the Whipples won at some point) balancing the most amount of toothsticks on your pinky for the most amount of time or the most amount of chimichongas engorged in the fastest time.
Now imagine if you were a member of this family, a family which has many many brothers and sisters, in age ranges from teenagers to still in diapers. Imagine you are the middle child in such a family and you have never won any award, got no acknowledgment… you are basically the failure of the family. That’s exactly the situation Arthur Whipple finds himself in this “fantastic” Middle grade book written with enough adult humor and easy situations to truly be considered all ages and easily appreciated by a variety of readers. Quickly the book becomes an amalgam of mystery and suspense as the drama and comedy unfolds. We meet many interesting characters AND animals as well as clowns of all shapes and sizes and demeanor along the way.
As a debut novel, Matthew Ward has proven to be a great new voice in the field, and has also been a really enjoyable twitter feed as well as the fact that he’s really funny as a performer as evidenced by his attempts of breaking World Records himself.
THE FANTASTIC FAMILY WHIPPLE came out in August 2013 from Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin, so it’s available NOW at book stores everywhere. Go get it.
And to finish my article here’s my snap of Matt at Book Expo 2013:
When things end, especially serials we hope that even if they end with room for more, they offer a satisfying ending. One we can contemplate and understand what has come and what may come. With so many series recently ending in ways that have left me scratching my head I am glad that COGNITION: An Erica Reed Mystery has concluded with an open ending that brings a MORE than satisfying conclusion to its whole and that its final chapter answers any and all questions developed through the first three chapters.
I had previously written about those first three chapters here on The Spectrum and stated how excited I was for the final chapter. It delivered and in spades, but not completely as expected and with surprising moments and changes that actually make a second playthrough not just good for the acting, music and story but that decisions you make will actually create a different ending.
This new factor the game was fascinating and it’s played through a great mechanism. Through dialogue trees, how you respond to certain questions and sequences will change how a character feels about you. There is no wrong or right answer in these cases, they will just decide which direction the ending will bring you. They are not a solution to a puzzle but an extension of nuanced game playing and upping the ante of play styles that have built through the first three chapters.
The puzzles this time actually do take a part of the pattern that I really didn’t like in the end of chapter 2, but this time around they weren’t as complicated and felt like they fit right into the fact that we are the final complex chapter of this dense mystery with characters who can see the past, the future, read minds, shoot guns and solve complex puzzles without any powers even.
Amazingly one of the most interesting and exciting parts of this final chapter is the tutorial section that delves deeper into some history that reveals the motivations behind the lead characters relationship with an important side character. It really sets up the game well too, guiding you to remembering how the supernatural powers combined with actual detective work really go hand in hand and make Erica Reed a special character.
I must also applaud the acting in this particular chapter. It seemed to be a bit of a step up even though it was the same actors as previous chapters, by the end it really felt like Raleigh Holmes had found a voice for Erica that really is its own. It made me feel sad that this might be the last we see of the character for awhile actually.
Here’s to hoping Phoenix Online Studios decides to work on a followup to Erica’s new mission, there’s plenty of story to be told and so many more intriguing ways to delve into the powers that were actually only touched upon in this final chapter.
COGNITION: The Cain Killer is now available on STEAM, GOG and the POS website and if you act fast you can catch some great sales on the POS website.