In which anticipation for the Avengers pays off

The Avengers has come and gone for me. Color me disappointed. Not in the film itself,it was everything I wanted it to be. The banter was there, the characterizations were there and the spectacle, oh the spectacle, was there. But what’s disappointing is that now it’s over, I’ve seen it and wonder, what’s next.

The Avengers movie was a dream in the waiting for me. Sure, I’m 45 now, but I distinctly remember as a kid wanting to see real live superheroes. Those old Marvel cartoons and Super Friends were great, but as a little kid I just knew superheroes were out there. Growing up, wanted to go to New York City so bad. Why? Just to catch a glimpse of Spider-Man swinging through the city. I knew he was there and if I could just get my Dad to take me, it would be the highlight moment of my young life. Alas, it never happened and a dream was deferred.

Later, there were some live action TV shows featuring superheroes. There was Spider-Man. Good show, not great. But Spidey’s webs in that show, classic. Those weren’t webs baby, they were some serious ropes. And I don’t recall it clearly but I don’t think we ever saw webswinging in those shows. Wall crawling, sure. But no swinging. There was, of course, the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk series. While I remember the Lou Ferrigno Hulk stuff in that show what always stood out to me was how very sad David (huh?) Banner’s life was. Not much superheroics when you’re all weepy at the end of the show. There were more: Thor, Daredevil, Captain America, etc. But none of these were really great. I guess the technology of the era wasn’t up to the challenge. So again, a dream deferred. (And yes, I know I’m not talking about Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman – buy hey, I’m a Marvel guy).

But then, in 2002 everything changed. Spider-Man was brought to the big screen and they let a geek do it. Spider-Man was everything I wanted to see when I was a kid. I had to wait until I was 36 to see it but there it was. Wall crawling and web swinging! And everything kind of spiraled out from there. So it was all good (well not Daredevil or Elektra but still, progress). Then someone at Marvel remembered the two things that made Marvel Comics so good back in the sixties. Real characters and a shared continuity. Iron Man hinted at this in 2008 with a small clip at the end of the credits when Nick Fury tells Iron Man about the Avengers Initiative. Be still my geeky heart. Were they really going to try this? Were they really going to make an ensemble superhero movie? And every movie Marvel made subsequently held out that promise.

I won’t lie, I have been looking forward to seeing The Avengers, not since 2008 but since about 1978. That small, quiet kid who so desperately wanted to be something more, to be special, wanted to see that opportunity for superheroics held out to him. He wanted to know it was possible for superheroes to exist. And Marvel finally provided that, 30 years later.

But, as with all things so eagerly anticipated, they eventually arrive. Sometimes those things are everything you hoped they would be, and sometimes they are not. But either way, they have occurred. And that, it seems to me is the real problem with anticipation. Be it for superhero movies or life changes eventually that moment will come. And then you have that “now what do I do moment?”. Personally, I’m facing that “what do you do now” moment with my career. I think the correct response is to live in the moment and know you’ll make the right decisions that will ultimately take care of the future. Hopefully I’ll be as successful as Joss Whedon and Marvel as I make my decisions.


In which my wife becomes “Geek Adjacent”

This week is a celebration of sorts for geek-dom called Speak Out With Your Geek Out. The inspiration for this effort is an article by a woman who realized her dating service date was a one time Magic The Gathering Champion. She was rather dismissive about his hobby and success and essentially stated that this was a  relationship killer for her. It had a brief life as an internet sensation which resulted in  a pledge by over 2000 people to blog about their geek passion this week and how it’s a part of their life.

I’ve spent a week or so thinking through this and realized my relationship with my wife really speaks to this situation. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been a geek for most of my life. It all started with comic books and Sci-Fi and has grown into board games, RPGs and video games. I’ve also written about how I “hid” this side of myself. What I really haven’t discussed is how this all has affected my relationship with my wife of 17 years.

When I first met Wanda she was the furthest thing possible from a geek. I don’t think she even saw a comic book before she met me. As we began our relationship I didn’t speak at all about my passion for comics and other things geek. We may have seen the occasional Science Fiction movie together, something safe like Jurassic Park (yes I’m that old, it was in the theater), but I waited until she was out-of-town to see Batman Returns.

Going back a bit further to when we met, I had a good, but not great job and a lot of credit card and student loan debt. I was working to pay them down, but with true love comes the engagement. And with engagement comes an engagement ring. Well, if I was going to swing that ring and get rid of some debt before marriage, I had to get a second job. This made for busy days and busy nights. It’s safe to say I was fairly stressed. My most effective stress relief was to sit down with a beer and a stack of comics. Problem was, my shift at the second job didn’t end until after the comic book store closed. One particular day, I really wanted that stack of comics and it just so happened that Wanda stopped by to see me at the second job.  I tentatively asked if she wouldn’t mind swinging by the comic store to pick up my weekly pull. Yes, I asked my beautiful fiancée who was (and is) more cheerleader than chess club, to waltz into a comic shop and ask Pat the Comic Book Guy for Craig’s comics. And bless her, she did it. I have no idea what went through her mind that day but I have to believe she walked through that door with some trepidation. And at that point , I knew I had decided to marry the right woman.

And thus began Wanda’s life on the periphery of my geek-dom. I would not say that she has become a geek, but to steal a phrase from Wil Wheaton, she has become “geek adjacent.” She knows the characters and key plotlines from Star Trek. She knows that Han shot first and knows what I mean when I say “many  Bothans have died to bring you this information.” She knows all about which comics I like, and has bought me many great comic themed Christmas and Birthday gifts over the years. She watches Doctor Who with me and the boys and has a strong knowledge of the post-relaunch Doctors (her preference is David Tennant). And last year, she even accompanied me to GenCon for a day.

If you had asked her 20 years ago if she’d know and do all this, I’m certain she would have laughed at you. But she has done all this and she has done it for me. So all I can say to the girl who blew off the Magic champion, you have no idea what you’re missing.”

On Comics and DC’s New 52

As I’ve mentioned, the foremost of my geek passions is comic books. I’m a  mainstream superhero guy, mostly Marvel and DC. I’ve always loved Spider-Man and the X-Men on the Marvel side and the JLA and Firestorm on the DC side. While I enjoy the continuity of comics on the one hand, I have always loved alternate reality stories in the comic world. The best example of that are Marvel’s “What-If” stories but there have been other versions of the idea, my favorite being “Kingdom Come” over at DC.

So I have been especially intrigued with what DC Comics has planned with the reboot of their entire universe. The willingness to overwrite 50+ years of continuity is audacious and I’ve been interested to see how they’d do it. DC kicked things off last week with Justice League which I really enjoyed, but the meat of it was this week with the release of 13 new books. Now a blogger I follow, CS Daley, is planning to review each of the New 52. I have no such ambition. I do plan to read them all though. I think the big 2 questions for DC in all this are: 1) how any people will buy the second issue of these books and 2) how many new people will begin reading these books.

I don’t expect to buy all 52 of these books on a monthly basis. There are certain titles that are a given: the Superman books, JLA, core Batman titles, etc. But  the reason for my buying all 52 number ones is to see if anything else grabs my attention. Out of the first week’s run here are the titles that surprised and intrigued me enough that I’m getting the next issue:

Yeah, they're bagged and boarded.

Swamp Thing In all honesty I’ve never been a fan of this book (not even the “OMG Alan Moore is a god” version). But something about this issue really piqued my interest. I like the TV Hulk aspect of it that Alec Holland is on the run from his past. I appreciated the little details like the plants constantly reaching out to him and the big detail of Holland essentially telling Superman to kiss off.  No spoilers, but the two hooks at the end of the book left me wanting more so I’ll be back next month.

Animal Man My only exposure to Animal Man are guest appearances and his roles in DC’s Infinite Crisis fallout books. I think what pulled me into this book was the focus on Animal Man’s home and personal life and less so the action. Here’s a guy struggling with what we all struggle with: career, family, fatherhood. He just happens to have a real cool side job. Not sure how long I’ll keep going with this but hey, have me for at least one more issue. I’d like to see a better artist on this book though.

Green Arrow Wow, they totally rebooted Green Arrow. It seems to me they’ve pulled generously from the Smallville version of Oliver Queen, especially his look. Of all the characters so far he seems the most obviously de-aged.  The art here is great and I like the new Rogues Gallery and support team they’ve created for GA. I think I’m on board for the long haul here.

Justice League International I went into this book tentatively. I never enjoyed Justice League Europe by Giffen and DeMatteis (I enjoy humor in a comic book but not slapstick). I was afraid JLI would follow a similar path. There’s humor here, but it’s not corny. This issue is a pretty standard team origin story. Interestingly, it’s being done in the way that many critics say the new Justice League book should have done. Dan Jurgens gets all the characters in at once and we get to see their initial effort to work as a team. I enjoyed the interplay of the various nationalities involved and the use of the old Hall of Justice from the cartoon. I’ll be back for future issues if they’re as good as this one.

As to the rest of Week 1, here’s how I see future purchases.

In for the long haul: Action Comics, Detective Comics

Giving it another try with issue 2: Batgirl, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch

At least I’ll have #1: Batwing, Hawk and Dove, Men of War

For those of you who also picked some (or all) of these titles up, what did you think?

The New DC Universe: Week 1 Reviews

The New DC Universe: Week 1 Reviews.

CS Daley is planning to review all issues of DC’s New 52. I’m hoping to just be able to read them all.He’s off to a good start with his review of Justice League #1. I think I liked it a bit more than he did. I’m a huge fan of Jim Lee’s art so I was immersed in the world immediately. Story-wise, I think Johns took the right approach in slowly introducing the new characters. To jam all the members of the new league into one issue would have been a stretch, even with a double issue.

Can’t wait for next week’s releases and CS, I’m looking forward to the ride!

In which I describe why Wednesday is my favorite day of the week

Oh sure, you might say, that’s easy. Wednesday is Hump Day, the middle of the week. Or Wednesday is the night my favorite TV show is on. Unfortunately you wouldn’t even be close. For me, I look forward to Wednesday because it’s the day new comics are out. Now why in the world does a 44-year-old banker still read comics? I’ll get to that but trust me I have the boxes (and boxes) of comics to prove it.

To understand where I am today, I think you need to understand where I was. As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I loved books, especially fantasy. My first exposure to comics though was at the drug store in the local mall when I was 7 or 8. Eventually, I’d ask my parents to drop me off there when I went shopping.They had one of those awesome spinner racks full of comics. I’d just pull up a piece of carpet and read to my heart’s content. But I didn’t really buy anything because I was 7 and who has money when they’re 7? I may have had a couple of comics lying around my room but it certainly wasn’t a lot.

Now, fast forward a few years. I’m probably 13 or 14 years old and I pick up Uncanny X-Men 155 at yet an other drugstore by my house. No real reason, cover looked kind of cool and I vaguely remember some guys at school talking about Wolverine, so why not? I was completely sucked in. The story was great, the art was great, what wasn’t to like. (Little did I know this was considered one of the greatest runs in X-Men history with Chris Claremont writing.) From there, I kept finding reasons to swing by that Eckerd’s looking for new copies of X-Men. I had no idea then, that comics ran on a monthly publishing schedule. Man, did I hate waiting.

Picture courtesy of Marvel WIkia

What really hooked me in, was a cross-over between Marvel’s X-Men and DC’s New Teen Titans. Not only did it introduce me to a new comic team, but a whole new comic universe. Again, great writing and not a small crush on Kitty Pryde (don’t laugh, she’s even mentioned in a Weezer song.) hooked me and now I had two comics to buy each month. Even then my habit was managed, shall we say, discretely. I certainly didn’t want my Dad to know I read comics. He was a high school jock in his day, how would he even understand? And aside from a couple of guys at school I knew who appreciated comics, I didn’t discuss it much at all. So while I had one reason to go into that store, I provided any number of other ones to get my Dad to let me run in when we were on our way somewhere.

And so my collecting career began. But like any other addiction, it grew. Pretty soon, I branched out into more comics and more characters. All off that spinner rack in Eckerd’s drugstore Then, about 1 year later I found out that a whole comic book store existed up in Clearwater! But I couldn’t drive, so how in the heck was I going to get there? Well, one evening there was a College Fair up in Clearwater that my Dad wanted to take me to. Made sense, I had a future to think about after all. But that campus was awfully close to the Comic Book Store, Geppi’s Comic World. In truth I was far more excited about swinging by there than I was about the college fair. But, I covered my eagerness by casually mentioning to my Dad, “hey, can we swing by this store on the way home, I want to check it out.” Begrudgingly, he did but it was closed. It didn’t stop me though. Like a kid at a candy store I had my nose up against that window, just looking at all the comics in there! The ride home from there was a bit awkward as my Dad only wanted to talk colleges and I only wanted to talk about the wonders of that store!

Soon. two things happened that sealed my comic book fate. One, I got a driver’s license and two, I got a job. Transportation and disposable income! About once a week I managed to work my way up there to peruse the store. Here I discovered two more things about the world of comic books – pull lists and back issue bins. My two favorite comics were still X-Men and Teen Titans, but I was missing huge chunks of back story and continuity in my brain. And, usually, for a couple of bucks I could get these stories. I wasn’t making a ton of money working for my Dad, but I can tell you, most of it went to comic books.

I went on, collecting away, buying comic books boxes and storing them all up. In 1984 though I headed off to college. I kept my pull list intact back home. Every visit home I would drive over to Geppi’s and pick them up. (Given I paid for them with my student loan money I have no idea what that 60 cents an issue cost me in interest!) Eventually, I found a shop in my college town and took my business there. After graduation, I took a job in that same town (more disposable income – yay!). At the time I felt that job was stressful (ha! just wait for it dude.) and on my way home Fridays, I’d stop by the shop to pick up my pulls and the liquor store to pick up some beer. I’d get home, pop open a beer and a comic and the stress (such as it was) from that week would just melt away.

This really explains why I still enjoy comics today. In a world full of work stress, parenting stress (teenagers, ugh) and generalized adult stress (am I really 44?!?) I can get a few minutes of escape with characters I’ve come to know well over the years. And at this point in my life, all I really want is a bit of time away from the daily grind into a world that’s a bit more fantastic than the one in which I live. And it’s a lot less frustrating than fishing or golf!