I haven’t forgotten Mega Man

'.inddSpecifically, the Anatomy of Mega Man. The budget paperback edition of The Anatomy of Mega Man Vol. I is now up for purchase on Amazon. And it’s only on Amazon… I’m done with Blurb for selling the low-cost versions of my little vanity press books. Their cheapest shipping option is something $8, which makes no sense for a book that costs $15. Granted, the Amazon version lists at $22, but it has the option of free shipping, so it’s already less expensive overall. And keep your eye on it — Amazon always cuts prices. For example, Game Boy World 1989 is about $18.50 at the time of this writing, having been slashed from its list price of $25.

I’ll be adding other Anatomy books (and maybe a few others) to my Amazon account, though the conversion process will be kind of time-consuming. I wanted to get Mega Man done right away, though, because the affordable paperback version of that particular book has been long overdue.

Not that much of anyone is buying these, but I just like the satisfaction of seeing my work for sale in a real bookstore at long last. Granted, I had to put it there myself, but still. I’ll take what I can get.

Posted in Blog.

Visual delights

I am back in the business of making Game Boy World videos… hence the sudden dropoff in content here. The two I’ve produced in the past week were a bit more involved than usual.

Wizards & Warriors on Game Boy is surprisingly not-good. Really misses the appeal of the original.

And Atari Lynx deserves some love, dammit.

Aaaaalso, the Game Boy World book is now available on Amazon (US and UK). It’s more expensive than the Blurb version, but Amazon frequently drops prices on stuff like this. And unlike Blurb, you don’t need a coupon code to get reasonable (or free) shipping. Currently I’m working on converting The Anatomy of Mega Man up on Amazon as well — I realized a few days ago I’d never put together the compact paperback version of the book. And other back catalog books to follow as I have time…

Posted in Blog.

Someone like me is born every minute

I want to be cynical about it, but man, that Star Wars trailer hit all the right notes. That first shot, the pan across the desert, is so perfectly calculated. “Desert? Again? Ho hum. Oh, look, a crashed X-Wing, that’s inter— ohhhh.”

But I keep reminding myself that the first teaser trailer for Episode I looked amazing, too. It’ll hurt less that way if things go badly with this one. Based on the trailers we’ve seen so far, there’s even odds that half the movie will just consist of a sweaty guy in a stormtrooper suit looking wheezy and slightly nauseated.

That being said, I’m about to go find out if I have access to a viable version of Dark Forces on one of my many gaming devices. Everybody needs to blow up an Ewok, sometimes. And those new chromed Stormtroopers are basically just Dark Troopers…

Posted in Film.

Hey Lucy

My wife and I just watched Luc Besson’s Lucy. I had no idea it was basically Akira meets Serial Experiments Lain. The bit at the end with the mutant tentacles and computers… clearly, Luc Besson is a dude who likes his Japanese animes.

But that’s good! It means they can abandon those idiotic plans for a straight adaptation of Akira. This one starred Scarlett Johannson. And anyway, Akira was about ’80s Japan reconciling their anxiety over being victims of the atom bomb at the end of WWII with the compromises involved in becoming the world’s most vibrant economy four decades later. Trying to distill that into a film would be as pointless as, say, a film adaptation of V for Vendetta that has nothing whatsoever to do with the rise of neo-fascism in Thatcher’s England.

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Also, I was thrilled to learn that cell phones transmit data via laser-focused beams directly to satellite, which can then be shuffled through like the poster racks at Hot Topic. Who says Hollywood isn’t educational?

Posted in Media. Tagged with , .

God speed, Mr. Trimpe

I was sad to learn of the death of Herb Trimpe today. Fans of Bronze-age comics probably know Trimpe from his work on a lot of classic Marvel properties; he handled layout and pencil duties for The Incredible Hulk #181, which saw the debut of the Wolverine. Being less a general comics nerd and more a specific nerd for G.I. Joe comics, G.I. Joe is how I myself know Trimpe. His art played a huge part in my childhood.

He was the penciller for most of the comic’s first year of issues, back when the series tended to play out as standalone military adventures rather than the grand serialized saga that began in earnest with that car chase through San Francisco in issue #12. Around the time G.I. Joe went serial, Trimpe was replaced by Mike Vosburg, then Frank Springer, then Rod Whigham. A few years later, however, he returned to the franchise for very nearly the entire 29-issue run of spinoff Special Missions (which tended to involve, once again, standalone military adventures).

In one of those slightly strange coincidences, I read through the entirety of Special Missions just about a week ago for the first time in decades, revisiting the series with an adult eye. Two things really jumped out at me in this trip through the series: One, it involved a lot of tales set in political hotspots that remain volatile today. As a kid, I didn’t fully appreciate the history behind concepts like the hidden enclave of Tibetan rebels hiding out in a secret mountain pass and launching raids against the Chinese army, or the “Southeast Asian” intellectuals driven into hiding as rice paddy farmers by the Communist party’s intellectual purges of the mid-20th century. But these days, I’m surprised by how politically charged these stories about plastic toys actually were. Special Missions holds up surprisingly well – many of the specifics have become dated due to their grounding in the ’80s, yes, but they remain interesting and at times relevant to the current situation. And it’s always so fascinating to read G.I. Joe teaming up with the Taliban…

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The second thing I noticed in my recent readthrough is that Trimpe’s art was excellent. I didn’t really appreciate his work as a kid, because it lacked the flash and detail that I saw in later Joe artists like Ron Wagner and cover illustrator Mike Zeck. But Trimpe was clearly cut from the Joe Kubert cloth of naturalistic comic art — an illustrator who focused less on impressive splash pages and more on fluid anatomy and well-framed panels that above all served to support the script. A talented visual storyteller — a translator, of sorts, interpreting the writer’s words into a visual experience for the reader. And, as with the best translators, his work was so effective yet unobtrusive you didn’t really notice it. The sample above, from G.I. Joe Special Missions, is a great example — there’s an excellent sense of movement and flow from panel to panel, with enough motion to keep it lively yet sufficient consistency from panel to panel so that it reads clearly.

A few years later, in the early ’90s, I remember seeing some of Trimpe’s pencils in mainstream superhero comics. This was a year or two after Image Comics had debuted, and I remember thinking how sad and awful it was that an old-school illustrator like Trimpe was trying so hard to work in the style of the Image folks. His artwork around that time was not good… but later, I realized that the quality issues weren’t his fault. Some idiot inker saw Trimpe’s loose, limber Bronze Age style and decided to go hog wild with stiff, sloppy, proto-McFarlane crosshatching. In hindsight, I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for someone like Trimpe to watch unseasoned kids degrade his work with their poor finishes in an effort to chase trends.

I’d been thinking about writing some sort of small tribute to Trimpe on the strength of my Special Missions readthrough, so it’s kind of pathetic that it took his passing for me to translate intent into action. He deserved better, having laid down the groundwork for a fictional universe that I still enjoy today — reading Special Missions again prompted me to pick up IDW’s current G.I. Joe series. And I can still see Trimpe’s fingerprints all over the books, all these years later. S.L. Gallant’s style reads like a mix of Trimpe and Whigham, the two most influential illustrators from the early years of G.I. Joe, and Trimpe even contributed cover illustrations to the series up until very recently. It must be weird to have your career so closely tied to a comic book based on a childrens’ toy… but then, the care that folks like Trimpe put into those books made them something more than a mere promotional tie-in. While scribe Larry Hama tends to get the lion’s share of the credit for making G.I. Joe into something that outlived the toys it was ostensibly meant to sell, Trimpe had a lot to do with that, too.

Marvel recently killed off Wolverine, though that’s not likely to be a permanent state of affairs. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of his co-creator, and I suppose that’s why so many people turn to escapism for entertainment — and in that sense, I suppose Trimpe’s work keeps a part of him alive for as long as people read and enjoy his creations.

Posted in Comics, Media. Tagged with .

There is trouble with the trees

The good news: The first print volume of Game Boy World is now available, compiling all GBW articles from 1989 as well as some new supplemental material and high-resolution photography and scans of the packaging for every game included in this volume. It’s available in two versions:

Game Boy World_ 1989 HC Cover.indd

(Try using the coupon code APRILLIGHTS — it should save you roughly the cost of shipping and tax.)

You may notice the massive price difference between the two. You may also notice that they don’t feature the same layout. These two facts are, as it turns out, related. When I went to upload the book to Blurb, I noticed that the paperback option for the 10×8″ landscape-format photo books had climbed in price to the point that it would have been nearly as expensive as the hardback, which is kind of pointless. Considering how costly self-published material is, why scrimp when you could own a much nicer edition for a few bucks more? A quick comparison revealed that the trade edition (6×9″) would cost just a smidge over a third of what the larger paperback would run, so I scrambled Saturday to reformat the book for a smaller paperback edition. And voila.

Not that much of anyone cares anymore, but I’ll be switching from the 10×8″ format to 6×9″ for all books going forward. I really liked the larger coffee table style, but Blurb’s constantly ascending costs have priced that style beyond anything that could be considered reasonable. My original goal when I launched GameSpite Quarterly back in 2009 was to make the standard edition books come in at around $12-13. Prices on books have gone up all around, so I think $15 is a pretty decent price. Now, if only they’d offer a sensible shipping rate.

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Anyway, comparing the two formats, the trade edition (Sega Vol. 1 here) isn’t functionally all that much smaller than the landscape photo book (Metroid Vol. 1). The few books I’ve done in the larger trade size are among my favorites, actually, so despite the jarring inconsistency it’s going to create on my bookshelf as I move away from the coffee table style, I’m feeling pretty OK about the change.

I realize this will be of interest to maybe a couple of dozen people, but hey! I thought you couple dozen readers might be interested in knowing what’s up.

Posted in Blog. Tagged with , .

A grievous oversight

I can’t believe I’ve written so much over the years about the uncanny synchronicity between G.I. Joe and Metal Gear Solid without making mention of the most important connection:

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Old Snake, from Metal Gear Solid 4

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And Old Snake, an obviously down-on-his-luck Cobra Commander in the Transformers episode “Only Human.”

We regret the oversight.

Posted in 2D Animation, Games.

You like to watch

But don’t worry, I won’t judge. Not when it’s one of my videos you’re watching:

In other weekend project news, Game Boy World 1989 book is now complete and in the hands of Patreon backers. The book will go up for sale on Blurb next week and on Gumroad in May, so please look forward to it. I think it turned out phenomenally well, and I say this as someone with a deep-seated sense of self-loathing who rarely likes anything he does or creates. This book feels… substantial, I guess? Too bad it’s focused so comprehensively on such a niche topic, because I would love for it to reach wider distribution. Such is the corner into which I have painted myself. But then again, a few hundred of you folks are into it and make the whole thing possible with your support, so I can’t complain. You’re awesome, seriously and truly.

Posted in Blog, Games. Tagged with , .

Another video playlist

I’ve completed a slow-but-sure project over at USgamer: A year-by-year breakdown of the most essential NES games. It actually began with a simple attempt to highlight the best games of the system’s early years, since those tend to go overlooked when people make top 10/top 20 lists, but eventually it turned into a more comprehensive thing. I’ll probably add a final video for import picks later.

In any case, I apologize for the inconsistencies in this series of videos. The earliest ones were produced by some outsourced help, but eventually we brought all video work in-house. You can tell when the transition happens because suddenly the editing’s a bit rougher, but the aspect ratios become more consistent, and video sources suddenly receive credit…

There’s also an ugly feature that goes along with this series at USgamer, which aims to break down where to play these games legitimately. Some of the older entries may be a bit out of date — I think a few games have been reissued on VC since I began compiling this list — but on the whole it should be a helpful guide for those who eschew piracy and emulation.

Posted in Games. Tagged with , , , , .

In my rear-view mirror

I was surprised when this post popped up on Tumblr this morning:

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Not because it’s old manga, but because the big bold text at the bottom reads “Lubbock Light” — a reference to a weird meteorological phenomenon in the ’50s which many people take as some sort of evidence of UFOs. More like it was something to do with the nearby Reese Air Force Base or possibly even a light being cast into the clouds from some sort of experimental project out of New Mexico. Growing up in Lubbock, I heard a lot about the Lubbock Lights… mainly because that’s all the city could really claim for itself as a point of interest, besides Buddy Holly.

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This marks the second time I’ve stumbled across a reference to Lubbock in old manga, the first of course being this rather fanciful take in Golgo 13: The Ice Lake Hit. Silly Saito Pro, Lubbock doesn’t have any buildings that are taller than six stories! But I can see the appeal of using Lubbock as a locale in manga: It’s a decently large city, more than a quarter of a million people, but no Japanese national in their right mind would ever, ever go there to be able to call foul on its depiction.

Posted in Comics. Tagged with , .

Back to the usual nonsense

I spent the past weekend doing two things: One, playing Axiom Verge for review. It’s really good. Like, really good. In fact, it was just what I needed after the gorgeous banality of Ori and the Blind Forest. I’m afraid my write up for USgamer doesn’t do Axiom Verge proper justice, but much of the joy in the game comes from the act of discovery and from the surprises it offers along the way. Even weapons and powers are so unconventional that I feel that discussing them does a disservice to the game. So… I will write about it much greater depth in a few weeks, once people have had the opportunity to experience it fresh for themselves.

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Two: My other project over the weekend was the pull together the long-overdue Game Boy World compilation book. I haven’t self-published book in ages, thanks to all my life upheavals; this past weekend was the first chance I’ve had in about four months to just sit down and concentrate on a project like this. It was quite satisfying, and I must say the book is shaping up to be absolutely gorgeous, with tons of photos and a clean internal design. I’ve had to wrestle with the impulse to clutter it up with lots of images, but ultimately a more minimalist approach has prevailed, and the result will definitely be enjoying a place of honor on my coffee table even if no one else wants a copy. I still need to write roughly six pages’ worth of text (most likely next weekend) and do some revisions and editing, but the layout, photography, and all but a few screenshots are together and looking goooood. You can get a sense of the no-nonsense approach I’m taking with the design from the cover layout above: Photography, some bold text (though never nearly that bold, or large, inside), and some less intrusive supplemental text alongside.

I also threw together an experiment for USgamer last week: A video companion piece to the latest Virtual Spotlight column. Doesn’t seem to have garnered much interest, though. I’ll try again this week and see if that has any better luck. It may not have been the best idea to try this experiment about a game and series that no one cares about. Or maybe the column was destined to be a text-only joint. Who knows.

Anyway. Axiom Verge. Prrrretty great.

Posted in Blog, Games. Tagged with , , .

The great PC question

I’ve been threatening to do it for a while, and now I’m actually going to follow through. I’m going to (gulp) get a Windows machine for the sake of having access to the vast library of games that platform enjoys. Consoles have become increasingly stagnant and conservative, and all the medium’s creativity is happening down in the cracks of independently developed PC gaming. There’s nothing to be done for it, I’m afraid.

So my question, then, is: Is it possible to build a gaming-capable rig (ideally one able to handle current AAA stuff, though not necessarily at max settings) for less than $1000? Does that include a monitor? Give me your wisdom, O nerds. Lend me your knowledge of optimal mid-range PC specs.

Posted in Blog.