Game Review: Diablo 3

Diablo 3 is out. But is it a game? Or is it the most brilliant money making scam in internet history?

Movie Review: The Avengers

Okay, okay, I posted my Avengers review. Get off my back already, geez.

The Most Important Comic Book You've Never Heard Of

Action Comics #1. Detective Comics #27. Why is All-American Men of War #89 as important as these great comics -- and why have you never heard of it?.

Tales From the Vault: Lois Lane #93

If you thought Superman was a total tool before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Mass Effect 3: The Official Review

Mass Effect 3 isn't the end of the world, it just portrays it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Disney and Marvel Begin Cross-Marketing

Ever since it was announced last fall that Disney was going to bu Marvel, people have been wondering just what it was going to mean for both companies. One thing has always been taken as pretty much gospel fact, though: considering how much Disney has pushed "synergy" with every other company they have purchased, like ABC and ESPN, it was just a matter of time before Dinsey began cross-promotions with Marvel. The real question was when and what form would it take.

Well, now we have at least an idea of what the future is going to look like, because Disney and Marvel have announced two new cross-promotions coming in the next couple weeks: a series of TRON Variant covers across the Marvel Universe and a series of Marvel-themed covers for ESPN the Magazine -- one for each of the 31 NBA franchises.

Of the two I have to say the ESPN covers seem like a more natural, organic fit. Yes, it does smack a little of the recent announcement that Stan Lee was going to be doing a line of NHL-inspired superhroes. But still, a comic book cover depicting each of the NBA franchises as superhero teams isn't too crazy; at best it's kind of a fun gimmick and at worst, well, what harm can it do.

Plus, some of the covers are downright fantastic, particularly John Romita Jr.'s inspired take on his father's iconic splash page from Amazing Spider-man #50. This is almost too sweet to be real:

And most important, the gimmick seems to be working on some level; just google "marvel espn covers" or some variation and you'll see ream after ream of blog and newspaper articles about the covers, with local fans for each market debating the merits of their cover. That has to be a positive thing for Marvel even in markets that don't like the covers. For what it's worth, here's my local team, the Celtics:

All in all, it's not a half bad start for the Marvel/Disney marketing team.

Less successful. on the other hand, is the series of TRON Variant covers being slapped onto Marvel books over the next two months. I just don't get the connection at all. While I'm sure on some level there was the thought that Marvel might benefit from TRON fans picking up the comics, I have a hard time seeing that happening, mainly because there's just no connection at all between TRON and the Marvel characters. I dunno. On the face of things these two marketing campaigns may seem similar, but the TRON one really seems forced to me.

That's not to say that the art isn't cool; the Ghost Rider cover, featuring him on a light cycle, is a clever idea and this Captain America cover, for example, is pretty darn awesome:

But the whole thing just seems random, like a Burger King toy tie-in instead of a natural synergy between the two companies. And actual TRON comic book? Sure. Thor drawn as though he were in TRON? That I don't really get.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Saturday With Adam West and Barack Obama

Over the weekend I headed down to the New England Comic Con in Boston and had a chance to buy some back issues, rub elbows with creators and pop stars and, oh yeah, enjoy a visit from the President of the United States. So here's a quick recap of the festivities for those of you who didn't have the unusual experience of seeing Adam West and Barack Obama in the same hour.

This year, the NECC (which really should be sponsored by New England's traditional candy, the Necco Wafer, don't you think?) was put on by the folks at Wizard, who are responsible for Wizard World Chicago and that sort of thing. I was a little iffy about this since I mostly consider Wizard to be a tool of the devil, but on the other hand I hadn't been to a show in a long time and Mike Grell was supposed to appear so I figured, what the hell. How bad could it be?

You'll notice my mistake right up front there -- it's the part where I wondered how bad a Wizard experience could be. My trip to the show itself, though, started out just fine; held at the Hynes Convention Center, the show had the privilege of sharing the building with a rally for Governor Deval Patrick, where a certain special guest by the Name of Barack Obama was suppoed to appear. That doesn't happen every day, so I thought it might be cool to both hit the comic show and see the president, but when I arrived those hopes were dashed thanks to a massive queue of several thousand people who had apparently been camping out all morning for a chance to get into the rally. So, scratch the Prez off the want list. I thought.

My con pain began when I got to the ticket counter. See, I've been to a lot of shows in Boston and at no point have I ever paid for than ten bucks to into one. So it never even occurred to me to see what the prices for this show were going to be because, really, ten bucks isn't that big a deal.

You know what is a big deal, though? $35. Which happens to be the one-day admission for the show. I was pretty much caught the Demon and the deep blue Sea Devils at that point, though, because my options were to a) pony up, b) go stand in line for another 3 1/2 hours to see Obama or c) waste my whole day driving into and out of Boston for no reason. So I reluctantly paid up and headed into the show, hoping it would be so awesome it was worth every penny.

Which, no. The reaosn the price was so high, it turns out, is because Wizard has decided to try and emulate San Diego Comic Con in every way possible, which means tons of pop stars and whatever. But since, unlike San Diego, there's no reason to show up in Bosotn, Wizard has to pay appearance fees, meaning that my #35 helped subsidize some other random person getting an autograph from Charisma Carpenter. Whoopde damn doo.

Plus, to be honest, there just weren't a whole heck of a lot of real deal comic book dealers. There were probably a half dozen booths of dealers just selling TPBs, which is kind of sad for a comic book show in my opinion, but whatever. Add in another four or five guys just selling recent issues and you're left with basically five dealers who had authentic back issues. Only one of these, though, had the classic Comic Show Cheap Boxes, which on the one hand made it a lot easier to search for bargains but on the other hand meant I didn't actually find anything I needed.

Basically, I was a grumpy damn dude.

There were some highlights of the show, though. Firstly, official Friend of the Vault Bob Almond was on hand and was as personable as ever. He also was working hard on behalf of The Inkwell Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in comic book inking. I got to talk to Bob for a good while, which is always a pleasure, and I strongly recommend checking out his website for some learnin' on inking.

I also had the chance to meet a personal idol of mine, the legendary Mike Grell. After paying $35 for entry to the show I wasn't too psyched to find out he charges $5 for every signature after the first one, but I'm guessing it's to cut down both on people bringing entire stacks to be signed as well as those stacks then appearing on eBay. Since I rarely bring more than two or three issues to get signed (in this case I wanted one each of Warlord, Jon Sable and Green Arrow) it wasn't that big a deal. After getting his autograph I thanked him for finally tying up that goddamn Tinder storyline that had been unspooling as a subplot for over three full decades; he seemed very pleased that someone other than himself cared about that and shook my hand, so that was cool.

(As an aside, he was working on a drawing of Hawkeye when I spoke to him that was totally awesome beyond belief.)

And I did find a couple of very hard to find and quite expensive golden age comics I was looking for, namely (and you know what's coming) Boy Comics #5 and #13. I was extremely happy with the purchase of #5 in particular as it's the third issue of the series and very hard to get in decent condition.

But overall I was pretty displeased with the whole experience. I mean, Lee Majors is cool (even if I didn't actually see him) and there was a line for those Buffy people, so I guess someone gives a flying crap about them, but when I go to a comic book show I want to buy comics and I want to talk to comic book writers and artists. If I wanted to go to a pop culture TV convention I'd do that, but I don't and frankly it pisses me off that I had to pay through the nose so other people could co-opt my comic book convention experience. Even standing elbow to elbow with Adam West on my way out of the show wasn't cool enough to redeem the day.

But you know who was cool enough? The President of the United States, that's who.

So, it's like this: as I exited the convention, I ran smack into a crowd of people being ushered down a long hallway by some workers telling everyone to keep left. At this point it's like 3:30, a full hour after I thought the rally was scheduled for, so I figured, hey, these must be the people leaving the rally. So, assuming they were all being shown the exit, I joined in the mix and wandered with the crowd.

About halfway down the hallway, though, it donned on me that this wasn't leading to an exit but rather to some escalators going further up into the building -- and these folks weren't leaving the rally, they were heading in. Well, far be it from my to skip out on the President, especially since I just somehow skipped several long hours of standing in line for it. So, saying what the hell, I headed up into the convention hall.

Sure enough, there was a big stage set up (with, I might add, James Taylor playing live) and a crowd of folks waiting eagerly for Obama to come out. And we didn't have to wait long; about ten minutes after arriving, the rally kicked off, first with an introductory speaker, then the Lt. Governor, then the Governor and finally the President of the United Damn States of America. Right there, bro, no more than 75 feet away.

So that was pretty cool, though it would have been cooler if he had autographed my copy of Amazing Spider-man #583. And naturally I didn't actually stay for his whole speech; I mean, he's a great speaker, but i already knew what he was going to say and after hours of standing around the con I didn't feel like getting stuck for another hour pushing through a mob to get out. So I bailed.

All in all, the experience as a whole was surreal enough to make up for how disappointing the actual comic convention was, but next time Wizard comes around I'll be taking a giant skip on the proceedings. I only have so much money to spend on comics, after all, and wasting $35 of it for a chance to chat with James Marsters really isn't part of my fiscal planning.

Now, if they can get the President to come back again and sign this time, maybe we'll be in business...

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Week in Geek: October 3-9

Sometimes geek news slips through the cracks, and when that happens, I'm here to catch it in a segment I call "The Week in Geek." Yes, folks, hard to believe but it's been an entire week since my last update on everything geeky, which means you're all one week closer to death. And that should be all the incentive you need to check out this latest batch or articles, because seriously, don't you need something fun to at least temporarily distract you from the looming specter of eternal non-existence in the cold nothingness that reigns beyond our world?

Yeah, I thought so. Let's get geeky, friends!

October 6 -- Emma Stone is Having a Blonde Moment: Yes, rehead Emma Stone is playing the blonde Gwen Stacy, a reverse of last time when blonde Kirsten Dunst played the redheaded Mary Jane Watson. Apologists claim that Stone is actually a natural blonde, but whatevs. Stone is cool, but this is weird.

October 7 -- Sam Raimi is The Man Behind the Curtain for ‘Oz’ Prequel: Raimi gets a lifetime pass from me thanks to Evil Dead 2. And if they do get Robert Downey Jr. to play the wizard in this prequel, well, there's at least a small chance I might go see it.

October 8 -- Dan Aykroyd Super Pumped For ‘Ghostbusters 3: I couldn't care less about Ghostbusters (blasphemy alert!), but you need to check this out if only to click on the link to Aykroyd's new ad for "Crystal Head Vodka," which seems like an SNL skit but is totally real. Maybe the world is the joke.

October 8 -- Noomi Rapace May Become The Girl in the ‘Alien’ Prequel: I'm only slightly more interested in the Alien prequel than I am in the Oz prequel or the Ghostbuster sequel, but this casting choice seems like a great idea.

October 8 -- ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ Loses an Entire Dimension: In the best decision of the week, Warner Bros. decided not to convert the new Harry Potter film into 3D because 3D conversion blooooooows. Very smart move, WB, thank you.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Stan Lee's NHL

Back when I was a kid, I thought it would be cool if there were sports themed superheros. I don't mean crap like NHL Superpro, I mean like a superhero who has the Red Sox logo for his symbol and battled the evil Yankee to preserve the forces of good. Eventually, of course, once I got a little older, I decided this was a really, really stupid idea.

Then again, I'm no Stan Lee.

Which brings us to the surprise announcement of the week: Stan lee is teaming with the NHL for the "Guardian Project," which will have him co-create a team of 30 hockey themed superheroes, one to represent each NHL franchise. I shit you not.

"This is unlike any project Stan has ever done," Guardian Project chief creative officer Adam Baratta said, using massive understatement. "We worked hand-in-hand with the NHL over the last 10 months to specifically design each character not only to look and feel like the moniker, but to be infused with the spirit that represents the fans of each hometown."

As a Bruins fan, of course, I'm curious to know what my new superhero icon is going to be like and the Boston Herald, for this one time only, has the answer. "The superpowers of the Boston superhero bear called “Bruin” include precognition, or the ability to sense trouble, and serve as the “early-warning system” for the rest of the Guardians. His powerful roar can freeze enemies in fear, and his olfactory power allows him to “smell” when someone is lying and be a strong interrogator."

In addition, the Herald claims that "Bruin will be gritty, hard-working and, since he’s Boston-educated, the most intellectual of the bunch. And, yes, he’ll have a Boston accent."

I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry or get out my checkbook.

According to the press release, which was issued in advance of today's big rollout event at the New York Comic Con, the Guardians -- who will be marshalled by a 15-year-old kid -- are set to star in a line of comics books as well as a novel, video games and NHL marketing campaigns. If that all happens and the Guardians catch on, of course, I will literally swallow my Terry O'Reilly jersey whole, but more power to 'em I guess. Good luck getting this to fly.

For the life of me I haven't been able to find any images yet of the various Guardians, but trust me, as soon as I find some, I will be posting them. In the meantime, though, it struck me that just about every NHL team already has an established superhero or supervillain that could easily represent the franchise. So with that in mind, here's my list of heroes and villains for NHL franchises:

Boston Bruins -- Ursa Major
Buffalo Sabres -- Sabre
Montreal Canadiens -- Satannish (okay, maybe that's just me)
Ottawa Senators -- Senator Harrington Byrd (I looked this one up)
Toronto Maple Leafs -- Major Mapleleaf (yes, this is a real character)

New Jersey Devils -- The Death-Defying Devil
New York Islanders -- Wonder Woman (think about it...)
New York Rangers -- Space Ranger
Philadelphia Flyers -- Night Flyer (I refuse to give them someone cooler)
Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Penguin, obviously

Atlanta Thrashers -- Night Thrasher
Carolina Hurricane -- Hurricane
Florida Panthers -- Black Panther
Tampa Bay Lightning -- Lightning Lad
Washington Capitols -- Estes Kefauver (meta commentary!)

Calgary Flames -- Human Torch
Colorado Avalanche -- Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers -- The Duke of Oil (maybe the dumbest villain ever?)
Minnesota Wild -- Wildfire
Vancouver Canucks -- Captain Canuck

Chicago Blackhawks -- Blackhawk
Columbus Blue Jackets -- Yellowjacket (only funny to me, maybe)
Detroit Red Wings -- Redwing
Nashville Predators -- Predator
St. Louis Blues -- Chat Noir (look it up, I'll wait)

Anaheim Ducks -- Howard the Duck
Dallas Stars -- Starman
Los Angeles Kings -- King of the Hoboes
Phoenix Coyotes -- Coyote
San Jose Sharks -- Tiger Shark

Come to think of it... maybe I am Stan Lee after all!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ask the Vault!

We haven't done this for awhile, so why not? Yes, it's time for the latest edition of the mind-expanding sensation that is sweeping the world, Ask the Vault! As always, the rules are pretty simple: you ask me any question you want, anything at all (though preferably about comics), and I provide the most comprehensive and intelligent answer you've ever heard in your whole damn life.

Of course, some questions have already been asked and answered, so before you submit your query, check out this list to see what kind of knowledge has already been dropped. But otherwise, the door is now open, so get your thinking caps and step through it metaphorically. Once I have accumulate enough questions, I'll answer them all with my usual flurry of timely activity.

Ready? Okay, ask away.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Week in Geek: September 25 - October 2

And we're back, folks, with another jam-packed week in geek. What kind of jam, you ask? Grape jam, baby, grape jam. Because here at The Vault, we use only the finest ingredients when we whip up our patented recipe of pure, unadulterated awesome.

But enough chit chat, let's get right to this week's highlights:

September 27 -- Mark Ruffalo: My CGI Hulk Will Be Best CGI Hulk Ever Talk about setting the bar low.

September 28 -- ‘True Grit’ Trailer: Truer, Grittier Than Ever: This has the potential to be the awesomest movie of the year, not to mention the rare remake that is better than the original.

September 29 -- ‘Sherlock Holmes 2′ Gets a Mad Man, Er, Villain: I won't feel safe until they announce Rachel McAdams won't be returning, but this sounds fine for what it is.

September 29 -- ‘Lost’ Star Josh Holloway Accepting Impossible Mission: I still think he should have been Hawkeye, but I'm happy to see him in anything. Maybe he can kick Tom Cruise's ass.

September 30 -- Hallelujah, It’s Raining Ninjas in ‘The Warrior’s Way’ Trailer: Oh look, a serious, live action version of Ninja Scroll, combined somehow with both Wild Wild West and Lone Wolf and Cub. In other words, this looks pathetically terribad.

October 1 -- San Diego Defeats Dastardly Plot to Kidnap Comic-Con: Comic-Con is staying in San Diego, which is good. Not that I have a horse in this race, I just loathe L.A. and the Inland Empire. No offense.

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