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Casual Saturdays: Why You Should Read the Ender’s Game Comic Book October 4, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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First off, the details: Ender’s Game is one of the most beloved science-fiction novels of our time. Written by Orson Scott Card and first published as a novel in 1985, Ender’s Game tells the story of a future in which we have been attacked by an alien race known as the Formics (often called “Buggers” for their insect-like appearance). While we defeated the first wave of their ships, the leaders of Earth knew that they would return in decades with a full attack force. So, they have begun to take the brightest children on Earth, and train them in a Battle School. Ender is one of these children, and perhaps the brightest of them all, but can he find a way to stop the Buggers, when no one else has? Ender’s Game: Battle School will be a comic book mini-series from Marvel Comics. Issue #1 goes on sale on Wednesday October 8th. Sellouts may occur, so you may want to pick up your copy soon. To find a comic book store need you, call 1-888-COMICBOOK

For those who’ve read the novel, but don’t normally read comics: If you’ve read the novel, I’m assuming you’ve liked it. (And if you didn’t, there’s something wrong with you.) Surely you’ve heard that an Ender’s Game movie is in the works, but currently, not too much is occurring, because filmmakers are having a hard time transitioning it from book to movie. Since comics are essentially half-way in between books and movies, a successful comic book could show Hollywood that Ender’s Game can indeed be translated to the visual medium. So, if nothing else, reading the comic may be supporting the development of the movie.

Of course, that is not the only nor the best reason to read the comic book. The primary reason, is simply that it will be an adaptation of one of sci-fi’s best novels. If you would go to see the Ender’s Game movie, why wouldn’t you read the comic book? Like a movie, the comic will help bring the novel to life by adding visuals and “sound effects.” Of course, you may also be persuaded to read it from the praise that Orson Scott Card (who is not writing the comic) has given it here.

For those who read comics, but haven’t read the novel: first off, shame on you! You consider yourself a sci-fi fan, and you haven’t read Ender’s Game? Well, here’s your chance to find out why this book is so highly regarded. If you’re like me when it comes to comics, and usually enjoy traditional superhero tales best, you’ll be glad to learn that there is much to appreciate in the story of Ender’s Game. No, there aren’t any characters in capes and tights running around trying to stop a super-villain from destroying the city, but many similar elements can be found.

Ender is an outcast amongst his peers, and doesn’t really want to participate in “saving the world,” he just wants to grow up like a normal kid. He lives in a future where the Earth was devastated by Formic attacks, and all the world has been united in preparing to defeat the Formics when they return. In Battle School, he overcomes great odds to quickly rise as one of the best students. And for those who enjoy a little “secret identity” intrigue, there is the Earth-side story (assuming they keep this plot thread in the comic) of “Locke and Demosthenes” and how they use their “abilities” to help change the world.

For those who’ve read the novel and read comics: If you aren’t already planning on reading this, you need to take a moment right now and ask yourself why.

-LOTRKing

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Casual Saturdays: Where Things Stand… September 27, 2008

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Wow, three months goes by fast! Let’s once again take a look at where things stand in the Marvel Universe.

Secret Invasion – It’s rapidly approaching its end, and six issues, three big Skrull reveals, and countless tie-ins later, it is a great story, while at the same time being a little unsatisfying. For the most part, I have enjoyed the goings-on in the main series, but many of the tie-ins have been disappointing. While this has almost as many tie-ins as Civil War did, Civil War was much better at being able to carry the story of each particular character or group of characters coping with the SHRA. In this case, most tie-ins simply feature a character or group of characters participating in an issues-long brawl with the Skrulls. As epic as this story has been, I will be happy when it is over.

Fantastic Four – I’ve loved Millar’s take on the FF, even if it is a little slow at times, but it seems that many do not share my enthusiasm. Sure, his take on the individual members may not be completely orthodox, but this departure from the norm has been what has made most of it fun. So while I’ll enjoy his sixteen issue run, I wouldn’t want him to take the helm for the next several years. (And I do hope they find someone great to do so, FF really does need a shot in the arm that will carry it forward.) In the meantime, regardless whether or not you are a fan of Millar’s handling of the team, you should definitely check out the Fantastic Four: True Story mini-series that is going on. The story might be slightly absurd, but I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve reviewed the first two issues of it at WCBR here and here, and I’ll soon post the link here to my review of the third.

Silver Surfer – We haven’t seen hide nor hair (that is, if he had hair) of him since Nova 15, and as far as I know, it looks to stay that way. I really wish Marvel would do another mini. 😦 (Or, heck, even an ongoing!) But, with the “War of Kings” that’s supposed to tear through Marvel’s cosmic line next year, maybe they’ll find a place to tell a story about good old Norrin. Until then, I plan to write a review of one of my favorite Surfer tales, Silver Surfer: Requiem for WCBR sometime this week, and I’ll post a link here when it is available.

Amazing Spider-Man – It sure has come a long way from the atrocious One More Day fiasco. New Ways to Die has been every bit the fantastic story we were promised it would be and while I’m still upset with the dissolution of the marriage, I won’t lie that I’m looking forward to what the “Braintrust” will bring us next. Especially the courtroom story hinted at in the “Extra!” one shot a while back. Also, the first issue of ASM Family was decent, and I was disappointed at first when it sounded as though they wouldn’t be including further “Mr. and Mrs. Spider-Man” stories, but the solicits for future issues makes it appear they will. Expect reactions to issue two in two weeks.

New Avengers – This title is severely lacking from its title characters, namely the Avengers. I’ve not hidden my dislike for the fact that Bendis is using these two books he’s in charge of to write Secret Invasion back-up tales (some of which haven’t even been that important) despite the fact that they rarely involve the Avengers. I really wish he’d done a Secret Invasion: Origins mini-series for these stories, or something of the like, and just given us more Avengers adventures. Though I won’t lie, rumors running around of the possible upcoming fourth Avengers ongoing (Dark Avengers) has me excited.

Mighty Avengers – See above.

Avengers: The Initiative – Where its two “Avengers brethren” have suffered from “Secret Invasion overdose,” Avengers: The Initiative has flourished. Dan Slott and Christos Gage continue to put out spectacular, character driven stories proving that you can pull characters from the “nobody’s ever heard of these random Marvel superheroes” list, and still have one of the best comic books on the market. Yes, I still miss Cloud 9, my favorite character to come out of this series, but team Slott and Gage haven’t steered us wrong yet, and I’m sure we’ll see her before too long.

Captain America – With Ed Brubaker’s long awaited conclusion to the “Death of the Dream” “mega-arc” that came out this week, Brubaker proves that he can leave you satisfied and begging for more at the same time. With almost complete resolution on the good guy side of the equation, and almost none on the bad guy side, Brubaker has made me a permanent fan of Captain America. Don’t expect to see this series leaving my must-read list anytime soon.

Thor – This, in my opinion, is still probably the best comic book series on the market. J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel continue to give us this slow-churning epic infused with humor and suspense. What is Loki’s true plan? What does it have to do with Dr. Doom? How does she intend to gain the allegiance of Balder, one of Thor’s longest friends? How will her actions affect Midgard? When JMS’ run on Thor is finally over (which I hope never happens), this will likely be one of my favorite graphic format stories told. (This honor currently belongs to Bone by Jeff Smith, and yes, I have read Watchmen, I still think Bone is better.)

Invincible Iron Man – One year ago, I never would have guessed that I’d be reading an Iron Man series. I loathed him for his actions during Civil War and, along with many fans and much of the actual Marvel Universe, blamed him for Captain America’s death. My appreciation for him, unknowingly, actually began when I started reading Avengers: The Initiative. As I began to see more and more the benefits of the SHRA, I began to understand Tony’s actions. I didn’t necessarily like him, but I no longer hated him. Then, of course, the Iron Man movie came out. I was completely blown away. I needed more Tony Stark, and I needed it IMMEDIATELY. Luckily, Marvel was wise enough to start a new Invincible Iron Man ongoing series just days after the release of the movie. And, luckier still, the series has maintained much of the flavor of the movie. IIM has become one of my favorite monthly reads, and one that I recommend to everyone I talk to who loved the movie (especially non-comic book readers, what better way to introduce them to the medium?)

Uncanny X-Men – With the authors of the already legendary Captain America series and the breakaway Invincible Iron Man ongoing at the helm of the world’s best selling super-team, this should have been an easy success. Unfortunately, something has gone wrong. Ever since Messiah Complex, Uncanny has taken a turn for the mediocre. Luckily, it had the beautiful artwork of Mike Choi to make us survive through the awful hippie story. Now we’re just getting an ever-increasing focus on the ever-increasingly annoying character Pixie, as rendered by the horrible artist Greg Land. I don’t know what needs to happen to fix this title, but Brubaker and Fraction but figure it out fast. (And firing Greg Land from the comic book medium would be a good start, especially when he pulls off crap like this.)

Astonishing X-Men – Who’d’ve guessed that this series would still be plagued with delays after the departure of Whedon and Cassaday? I dunno, but with the upcoming Ender’s Game comic book adaptation (discussed below), I’ve decided to drop this in favor of that. Don’t get me wrong, the story seems interesting enough, and the artwork is wonderful, but I feel this isn’t really an essential part of my reading list. I will, however, still review issues of this from time to time on WCBR.

Ender’s Game – Finally. One of my all-time-favorite novels is getting the comic book treatment. I’ve never looked forward to the release of a comic book as much as I am Ender’s Game #1 on October 8th. If you’ve never read the book, first off, shame on you! But secondly, you definitely better read the comic, because it’s gonna be epic! In fact, next week, Casual Saturdays will be all about why you should read it, so if you aren’t planning to, you better check back then!

So what do you guys think of the Marvel Universe as it is now? Share your thoughts if you feel like it.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: My Spicy Chili Recipe September 20, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Other Random Stuff.
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Today I thought I’d share my own award winning (fine print: this won the award for spiciest chili at a chili cook-off using the “even spicier” variant recipe mentioned at the bottom of the recipe) Spicy Chili Recipe. Enjoy!

Staples’ Spicy Chili

• 1 lb ground beef
• ¼ cup dehydrated onions or fresh chopped onions
• 2 16 oz cans pinto beans
• 1 16 oz can red beans
• 1 16 oz can kidney beans
• 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes
• ½ package of chili seasoning
• 3 cups tomato sauce
• 1 cup water
• ½ tsp salt
• ¼ – ½ tsp pepper
• ½ tsp seasoned salt
• ½ tsp ground chipotle chili pepper
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• ½ tbsp ground cayenne pepper
• Optional: grated cheese
• Optional: crackers

Brown the beef and onions, afterwards, rinse the mixture in a colander. Next, rinse all of the beans in a colander. Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large saucepan or crock pot. If in a saucepan, cook covered 20 – 30 min on medium heat. If in a crock pot, slow cook for several hours, exact time varying depending on temperature. Serve hot, add cheese and/or crackers to individual bowls as desired. For even spicier chili, use 1 tsp of chipotle chili pepper and 1 tbsp of cayenne pepper. For meatier chili, use 1 ½ pounds of ground beef.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Why You Should Get Facebook September 13, 2008

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When I first heard about Facebook, I thought it was stupid. A place where you could go online, and become “friends” with people that you already knew, and send mindless applications back and forth? Sounded like the ultimate immature middle-schooler’s internet haven. Then my younger sister got one. She went on about how useful it was, the fun she had, and the ability it gave her to actually get to know her friends better. I scoffed, why do you need a website to get to know your friends, shouldn’t you do that just by hanging out? Nonetheless, my sister continued to try to convince me to get one, and I just ignored her. Even my mother was against Facebook. She didn’t think it was “safe” for people to have their own internet page where they could put personal information and photos of themselves “for the world to see.” She thought it was the stalker’s internet haven.

Of course, sisters have a way of influencing people. When my aunt got one (my mother’s younger sister), she finally talked my mom into getting one. At work, I had numerous friends telling me I needed to get one. “Nah, I don’t need some stupid internet page to know I have friends, what’s the point?” When it reached the point that almost everyone I knew (even my bosses and some of my church leaders) had one, I finally caved in to “peer pressure.” “Well, I’ll start one, and if I think it’s stupid, I’ll just stop using it,” I thought.

To make an already long story short, I quickly saw how wrong I was. Sure, Facebook does have stupid applications and quizzes that were probably meant to appeal to immature middle-schoolers, but chain letter emails of the same ilk also exist, that doesn’t stop you from using email, you just simply ignore them, the same case happens here. Besides, I soon saw the possible benefits of Facebook outweighed any annoyances.

Facebook really does help you to connect with your friends better. When I graduated high school two years ago, I wondered how I would be able to keep up with all the various paths my friends took. Through Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with almost all of them (including two friends that I’ve been trying to track down since graduation, but haven’t been able to). Facebook acts like a little personal newspaper, as you update pictures and events about what’s going on in your life, your friends can keep up with what you are doing, and you can comment to them about it. Facebook even sends you reminders when friends have birthdays coming up.

I also discovered that not all applications were “stupid,” many are fun, and serve as more ways to express yourself and get to know each other. I realize this is a crazy world we live in where we can socialize more often sitting in front of a computer than in front of that person, but where can you seriously find all of your friends in one place? Besides, most of the people I “socialize” with on Facebook are people I don’t see very often, and I’m grateful that this is able to bring us together.

But what about the security factor? Facebook has easy to use and understand security features, you can pick exactly who can look at your information. For me, I have it set that only people who are my friends can look at any of my personal info, and the beneficial part is that you get to choose your friends, and you can delete people from you friend list at any time. As long as you are careful what you post, and what your security features are, there is nothing to worry about.

Facebook helps parents. Parents, if you get a Facebook, and become “friends” with your children, you can look and see what they are doing just as easily as any of their friends can. You can see exactly who their friends are. If nothing else, Facebook can also serve as a great “parental guidance” tool.

Facebook is the single most useful socializing tool I have found online. When I got a Gmail account, I thought Gmail was the most brilliant and user friendly form of email I’d ever seen. I was an avid Gmail fan who told all of my friends they should get one. Now that I’ve found Facebook, I feel just as strongly. It really does help you connect better with those around you.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: More Risky Talk – A Brief Discussion of Strategy September 6, 2008

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I’m not going to pretend to be a RISK expert, but I have noticed a curious strategy among fellow RISK players. Anytime I mention RISK to someone new I meet, if they play it, their reaction is usually along the lines of: “Oh yeah! I love that game! I always go for Australia!” Now, Australia is a very good continent to own: it ensures two extra reinforcements every turn, and is extremely easily defendable because it has only one access point.

However, I’ve noticed that Australia is oftentimes not a good location for your “homeland.” (I’m using the word “homeland” to mean the area you first attempt to take over in the game, and then direct most attacks out from.) Yes, it provides plenty of defence, you can stay holed up there for a long time, and endure through much of the game if you can keep it. However, if you attempt to build Australia as your homeland, there is only one place to move your frontline attacks: into Asia.

Now Asia is huge, and grants seven bonus reinforcements. If you can take and keep Asia, you are probably going to dominate the game. However, most other players will stop what they are doing to ensure that another player does not take Asia for this very reason. I have seen games won where someone’s main goal is to take Asia, but these are rare, and often involve a good deal of luck. In order to move anywhere else on the board, you will have to get there through Asia, and therefore have to keep both your frontline and distant homeland well stocked with troops, and this can often be hard to do.

So, summing up, Australia’s best quality is also its worst: it’s isolated. However, in my opinion, there is a very similar continent which poses much less problems: South America.

South America, like Australia, gives two reinforcements, and is also easily defendable because it has only two access points. However, unlike Australia, from South America, you can easily move to any continent except Australia. South America is connected to North America and Africa. If you can successfully invade from Brazil to North Africa, then you are also connected to Europe. One further invasion (into either Egypt or East Africa) ensures your path to Asia. In other words, South America puts you only one or two territories away from every continent (once again, except Australia). From here, you can use almost any conquering strategy at your disposal.

To clarify, trying to own Australia is certainly not a bad thing. If you have the opportunity to take it, you’d be a fool to pass it up. However, it is not the best place to make as your homeland; rather, it should be more of a side-project. Now, you obviously can’t make South America your homeland in every game. The games that I’ve played involving two players fighting for the same homeland usually end up with one (or both) of those players dying off very quickly. It’s usually better to move away, than to waste a massive amount of troops on a cold war. But, in situations where I can make South America my homeland, I always take them.

Now as I said in the opening, I am no where near to being a RISK expert. But I’ve played my fair share of games. I’m not the world conqueror too often, but I’m rarely the first person to die either. So you may or may not want to take my advice with a grain of salt. This was mainly meant to be me wondering why everyone goes for Australia, when I’ve always thought South America seemed the better choice.

Well, what do you fellow RISK players think?

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: My Official Report on the New Edition of RISK August 30, 2008

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For those who haven’t walked down the board game aisle of your local retail store lately, I’ve got some news for you: there’s a new edition of standard RISK. However, this time they didn’t just update the packaging, to those familiar with comic book terms, you might as well call this the “RISK Reboot.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, RISK 2.0 is here. So what’s different, and what’s the same? Is it still the same game, with only minor changes, or has it become something new altogether? Having played this new RISK thrice now, I hope to detail just this, and comment on which changes are good, and which are not so good.

Major changes:
How to Win
Objectives/Rewards
Capitals
Cities

Minor changes:
RISK Cards/Reinforcement Trade-Ins
Location names
Fortification
Troop pieces
Amount of Players

How to Win: RISK is no longer the game of global domination, but still remains a game of conquest and strategy. Instead of taking over the world to win, you must have control of your capital and accomplish three objectives. However, the rule booklet does contain rules for “an updated version of the classic game of global domination.” You simply maintain Objectives/Rewards, Capitals, and Cities, and just keep playing past the point when someone accomplishes three objectives, until someone conquers the entire map. Of course, RISK purists may simply wish to ignore these three new elements and can easily play “Old-School RISK” with this updated edition. Objective RISK does have two advantages: one, it takes significantly less time to play. So when you and a couple friends want to play RISK, but don’t have 5-7 hours to dedicate to a single game, this is the perfect solution. Two, it actually takes more strategy. Not only do you have to keep yourself defended and your frontline strong, but now you must also figure out ways to accomplish objectives before your opponents, while keeping them from doing so.

Objectives/Rewards: Recent editions of RISK have contained alternate rules for “Mission RISK,” and it is a similar concept here. At the beginning of the game, the objectives are shuffled, and then eight are placed face up on the board. This number is not restocked as the game goes on, so the number of possible achievable objectives diminishes as the game continues. Rewards are also shuffled and placed with objectives at the beginning of the game.

Capitals: Those who have played RISK II (the computer game) may be familiar with the “Capital RISK” variant. Once again, the rules here are similar. At the beginning of the game, each player chooses one territory to serve as their capital. They cannot ever move their capital, so it is wise to pick an easily defendable position. (In other words, don’t stick it in the middle of Asia, unless you plan on losing.) As mentioned earlier, you have to be in control of your capital to you win the game. If someone takes over your capital, you will eventually have to take it back. Even if you are playing the global domination variant, capitals are still important, as some of the objectives involve them. You also get one extra reinforcement each turn for every capital you control (including your own).

Cities: At the beginning of the game, fifteen territories are chosen at random, and a city is placed in each of these territories. When you get reinforcements, you count the amount of territories AND cities that you own, and divide this number by three to get your number of reinforcements. For example, if both John and Ben own twelve territories, and none of John’s territories have a city, while all of Ben’s territories have a city, then John will only get four reinforcements, while Ben will get eight.

RISK Cards/Reinforcement Trade-Ins: Instead of having an infantry, a cavalry, or an artillery on each, cards now have either one star or two. (There are more one-star cards than two-star.) Trading in a certain amount of stars will get you a certain amount of troops. You can now have more than five cards in your hand, but you can only turn in cards at the beginning of your turn (even if you kill one of your opponents) and cannot turn in more than ten stars at once. This, I in my opinion, is the perfect solution to the ascending trade-in/set trade-in problem. Those who thought that ascending trade-in amounts that granted up to sixty troops were too powerful will be pleased to learn that even ten stars only grants one thirty troops, and seeing as how most cards are one star, it will take a lot of “saving” to turn this in. Likewise, those who think getting a maximum of ten troops is too few should be appeased with the new trade-in system. Also, there are no more wild cards.

Location names: To those who have been worrying: don’t worry, the board still has forty two territories located in the same areas, with the same “adjacencies,” sea-line connections, etc. The ONLY thing that has changed on the board is the names of a few locations. Quebec is now Eastern Canada. Ukraine is now Russia. Congo is now Central Africa. And Siam is now Southeast Asia. These have all been done (likely) in the effort to “modernize” the game (which I will discuss later.)

Fortification: This isn’t really an update if you are familiar with the previous edition of RISK. At the end of your turn, you can fortify from any one territory that is “connected” to another. “Connected” is defined as owning every territory in between two territories. For example, if you own Eastern Australia, South Africa, and everywhere in between, you can move men from E. Australia to S. Africa. If an opponent takes the Middle East, and you don’t own any other “connectors” to East Africa, then the furthest west you can move is India.

Troop Pieces: This is yet another thing that will probably serve as an annoyance to “RISK purists,” the pieces are no longer infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Now, there are big arrows and small arrows. Small arrows count as one troop, big as three. At first, I thought this was ridiculous. What happens when you stockpile men in one location? First off, with objectives now taking precedence, it is quite unlikely that you will be stockpiling anywhere (except perhaps your capital). Second, because the pieces are much more compact than previous ones, you can fit much more into one territory. To those who are annoyed by this: remember, the pieces have changed frequently. Originally, they were just colored blocks. Then they became roman numerals identifying their quantity. Then they finally became the pieces we are familiar with. (I’ve actually played with all three versions too.) This is just the next step up the evolutionary ladder. The only time I could see this as being a problem is when you are playing Global Domination. In which case, you may need to start using an unused color if you gain too many men (I’ve had to do that in the “Old RISK” anyway), or you could say from the game start that big arrows are five troops (or whichever amount you choose). Once again, this is probably in attempt to modernize the game. Yes, I enjoyed the Napoleonic flavor of previous editions, but modern can be fun too. I’m neither upset nor excited by this shift in time-setting. I suppose it is all up to personal preference.

Amount of Players: RISK is now for 3-5 players, not 2-6. The board only comes with five troop sets, and no rules are included for “2-Player Neutral Army RISK.” I see this as an improvement. Six player games I’ve participated in rarely turn out to be fun, the board is much too crowded, and one or even two players lose very quickly because they are simply in other people’s way, so everyone stomps over them before they can even begin to set up an adequate frontline or home-front. Having only five troop sets ensures that this doesn’t happen. Likewise, two-player RISK with neutral armies takes way too long. (If you want to play with two players, play Lord of the Rings RISK which, in my opinion, is actually best to play with two. Four can be fun also, just NEVER play LOTR RISK with three players, trust me, it just doesn’t work.)

So there you have it, a fairly detailed description of similarities and differences between this new RISK, and the older editions. For the most part, I like the changes. However, if I could change one thing about this new RISK (or unchange I suppose, depending on how you look at it) I would include rules for the original Global Domination, no Objectives/Capitals/Cities, “Old School” RISK. Yes, I understand, and even approve of the updates they’ve made. But they can’t just overlook the original version that has existed for decades. Hopefully, when the release the next version, they’ll keep these new rules, and include the original rules, just for old times sake. So, knowing everything I know now, would I still have bought this new edition? Most definitely. But I’m also definitely keeping my older board, for those times when I and some friends DO have seven hours to kill, and are in the mood to take over the world.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Why I Think Iron Man Is Better Than The Dark Knight August 23, 2008

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A few days back, I posted this as a note on Facebook. It lead to a rather good discussion. The transcript is being posted here:

LOTRKing: Tired of justifying this on several occasions to several people, I’ve decided to put this here for all to see. Yes, I liked Iron Man better than The Dark Knight. I typed the following justification for the Iron Man vs. Dark Knight discussion board here on facebook:

Personally, I find it fairly easy to gauge which was a more enjoyable film to me. As several posters have stated, Dark Knight was surrounded by tons of hype and was about Batman, one of the most well known superheroes on the planet. Iron Man, however, was a lesser known superhero, and while people were expecting an enjoyable show, they weren’t expecting to be as blown away as everyone was. Add this to the fact that many kids (including my nephew) who had never even heard of Iron Man are now ranking him as one of, if not their top most, favorite superhero, and you can see which one was more of the “runaway hit.” On a personal level, I already read comics, and while both Iron Man and Batman are both interesting characters, I never before had the desire to read either of their comics. As soon as I saw Iron Man, I wanted more. Now, the new Invincible Iron Man is one of my favorite monthly comics. As entertaining as Dark Knight was, I still have no desire to actually start reading Batman comics. If a movie can get you that interested in a character, what does it say about the movie? Sure, Dark Knight was awesome, but it was largely because of the story line, I didn’t care too much about the characters. With Iron Man however, I think Tony Stark may have become of my favorite fictional characters of all time, and for a guy who loves reading books and watching movies as much as I do, that’s saying something.

Hopefully, this clears stuff up. Leave comments and/or arguments (of which I’m sure there will be many) below.

Tim: The concept behind Iron Man is one that you expect to be blown away, and from all the other hype about the movie that I heard from those who saw it, it didn’t blow me away like Dark Knight did. Two words: THE JOKER. You can’t compare any other villain to him. I don’t care much for Batman, he has no powers, only gadgets and limited martial arts, but the Joker made what I thought was gonna be another disappointment to the Batman movies an absolutely awesome flick. Granted, I haven’t seen the full of Iron Man, but at the same time, the Joker holds a special place in my heart, and that for me is enough. And are you really cheating on Marvel like that? I don’t read comics, I don’t have the time or energy, but a good movie is a good movie, and movies rarely reflect the book associated with it. That’s my opinion, the Joker rules and could totally pwn Iron Man.

p.s. Who else would like to see a movie just about the Joker?

LOTRKing: The Joker was certainly a an interesting character, but he was a disturbed, deranged. homicidal maniac. There are times when a villain is cool, and there are times when a villain is disturbing and scary. The Joker is certainly the latter. A good villain doesn’t think he is a villain, in his mind, he is doing what is right. The Joker just says “screw good, I wanna do evil for the fun of it!” While this lead to a darkly entertaining movie, I’ll take a noble villain over a blatantly evil one any day. Now, if you are tying to compare villains in movies, yes, The Joker was certainly a more interesting villain than Iron Monger, but Iron Man wasn’t about Iron Monger, it was about Iron Man, which is what made it so entertaining. Dark Knight, on the other hand, was more about the Joker than Batman. You say you want to see a movie about the Joker? You just got one. Jack Naper was the star of Dark Knight, not Bruce Wayne. So, while I don’t doubt Dark Knight’s high level of entertainment, (and it was certainly more artistic than Iron Man), I still found the greater level of entertainment to come from Iron Man.

Tim: That’s what makes him a great, possibly the greatest villain. Pure evil.

Shaun: You have some good points, Mr. Staples, [note: that’s me – LOTRKing] but I think that in order for the Joker’s character to justify his actions, he would have to be “blatantly Evil” instead of a Noble Villan.

Remember the talk Bruce had with Alfred when he wanted to quit? Alfred was talking (and a neat insight to HIS past as well) about when he was hunting thieves in the jungles of Burma. Remember the line “and some people just want to watch the world burn” kinda tied in the whole “Blatantly Evil” concept into understanding the Joker to some degree.
The Joker WAS more of a ‘traditional villan’ in more of a sense of his ego was more out of control than his actions. Think Al Capone. The Joker had to be the ‘best’, he had to one-up every other gang in his own twisted way, and throughout the entire movie he created power vacuumes and then filled them. I think his character is more believeable than most realize…

Evan: I definitely agree with you on Iron Man being a less known hero than Bat Man. You had to be burn around the right time to have any exposure to Iron Man at all. Iron Man definitely paved the way for the Dark Knight becaue Iron Man revived our faith in comic book movies.

Tim: i reread that, and noticed something. The Joker is doing what he thinks to be right, by creating anarchy. He loves chaos, and that, to him, is right. His law is that there is no law, and he dedicates himself to that cause. Just because he thinks outside the normal realms doesn’t mean he doesn’t do what he does for a cause. the trick is being able to empathize with him. The only flaw i found in the movie is that we know nothing of his background in it. i would love to see more of his back story.

Tommy: Ok good points all around but the simple matter of the fact is a man likes what he likes. Both movies in their own right raised the bar of the comic book movie forever. Batman gets the point for the movie aspect for the simple fact that not onlydid it set the new record for openning weekend sales but it also set a NEW standered for the ganera. It was not the carbin basied copy that Iron man was( by this I am refering to the same old story line that Good comic book movies have. You know hero has power(Such as spidermans bite giving him his powers, or in this case toney starks knowledge for wepons) and finds out something bad has come foruth from using this power(obvious). And than takes it upon himself to set things right and in doing so than incounters a villan which genraly is someone he already knows personaly in some way and has to defeat him.) Think about it that just Discribed Spiderman 1, The Incredible hulk(2008), Iorn man, and the fantastic four. Now i will give Iorn man the prize for best film visualy and in referancing to the later sequal. However Batman was not the typical movie. It was dark and scary and in all matters of the form not sutible for Children. But it also should us the intesity that the first batman (Batman begins) should us with a Realistic Forum of Batman.As for the villian, A villian in litterature is generally of a mission to prove, change, or in other terms disturb the balance of reality so that it benifits him. Which insadently describes Batman from Batman Begins. Which is why the Joker was in any sence of the word Perfect. The balance had already become disturbed in Gotham and he only wanted to push it Further( the unstopable force meets the unmoveable object). He is the ultimate villan because you don’t know what he going to do next. he has no visible weakness, he (as staited before) just wants to watch the world burn.

Tommy: Now for the BLOWING AWAY.
Iorn mans poularity was not as established as others did blow audencese away in the fact of , How come I didn’t know about this?
Ofwhich it is unfair to judge aganst the “blowing away” aspects of Batman because they were to different thigs. One established a Charecter while the other simply took things to a lvl we weren’t anticipating.
My Ending point being that as far as standereds go The Dark Knight not only pushed the envelope but it gave us a new view and stadistic view of a charecter that we all know.
While Iorn man did push the envelope as far a visualy, and givning us a look at the wise guy anti hero, alcholic, womanizer that is Toney Stark.
So in conclusion they Gave us the same things in different ways. It is up to the individual to decide who gets the prize.

Tim: ironically enough, batman disturbed the balance, the joker in such a sense is trying to push it back the other way. never thought about it that way. does that make him a little good, as far as social stability is concerned?

LOTRKing: As Tommy said, good points all around. In response to Tim: the Joker knew what he was doing was wrong, but he thought it was fun. He enjoyed playing with his “food,” this doesn’t mean he thought what he was doing was for the greater good. To Shaun: the Joker was certainly believable, many of his actions and statements reminded me of purely evil men such as Hitler and BTK. To Tommy: while the basic plot of Iron Man may have been somewhat generic it was still presented in a fresh way, and the characters (especially Tony) are what stole the show. The Dark Knight wasn’t one hundred percent original either. Villains making the heroes choose between two equally undesirable outcomes, and heroes making large sacrifices for the greater good are two elements that are used throughout the genre (not that they weren’t used extremely well here). Furthermore, you mentioned that Batman was already a well known character. This is true. But as I mentioned, Dark Knight didn’t make me want to go out and buy Batman comics ASAP like Iron Man did. Dark Knight had a great plot and was full of suspense and action. But Iron Man had much more entertaining characters. So as you mention, it really is a preference: which do you enjoy more from fiction, a great story, or great characters? For me, story is extremely important, but if you want me to love the piece, make me love the characters. As pulse-pounding and cinematic as Dark Knight was, I didn’t develop a “love” for any of the characters. It probably doesn’t help that Batman wasn’t even the main character, the Joker was, then probably followed by Harvey Dent. Batman comes in third. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the Dark Knight. But at the end of the day, Tony Stark, the star of Iron Man, is more awesome and likable than the Joker, the star of Dark Knight, and this is why Iron Man is 5 stars in my book, and Dark Knight is only 4.5.

All right dear readers, now it is your turn to join in on this discussion. Leave your agreements/disagreements below, and I’ll try to think of good responses. I’m also going to provide a link to this post on my Facebook, so if my friends want to continue this discussion, they can do it right here. Oh, and just for good measure: here is my Iron Man review, here is my Dark Knight review, and taking off the serious gloves (Why so serious?), here is a link to my post which jabbed some humor at both of them. Have fun!

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Letter to Marvel Concerning Amazing Spider-Man Family 1 August 16, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff.
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The following was an email I sent to Marvel earlier this week about Amazing Spider-Man Family #1. Since it is sort of a review, I thought I’d put it up here.

Dear Spidey Office:

I just finished reading Amazing Spider-Man Family #1, and it was definitely worth the $5 cover price.

“48 Hours” surprised me as easily the best tale in the issue. I have read many stories attempting to chronicle the early start of Spider-Man, and this was probably the best one yet (except for Stan and Steve’s original, of course!)

The story concerning Spider-Monkey, on the other hand, was just plain ridiculous. I felt embarrassed just to have read it when I finished, luckily it was very short. I wasn’t intending to buy Marvel Apes, but now I know I’m not even going to go near it.

Mr. and Mrs. Spider-Man was the only reason I picked up this issue, and I will admit that I was very pleased. The story had all the elements I wanted it to, and was still an entertaining Spider-Man tale. Indeed, I was planning on reading this ongoing series entirely for this feature, imagine my disdain when I read your closing page and found this was only a one-time deal! I don’t want to read Spider-Girl, because it doesn’t star Peter Parker. Is it too much to ask for a regular story starring Peter as Spider-Man, with Mary Jane as his wife? Please, PLEASE, make this feature a regular ASAP. I may or may not continue reading this series, but if you bring Mr. and Mrs. Spider-Man back, I’ll read every issue!

“Birthday Girl” was fairly entertaining and provided a nice look at a supporting character (this time, Aunt May) and I wouldn’t mind more stories like this.

Finally, the Venom reprint was exactly what a reprint should be. I’ve found that reprints often only have a little to do with the story they are associated with. But the origin of Venom looks to be very relevant in the upcoming New Ways to Die! Keep up the good work! (Though I’d really appreciate if you’d reprint issues that aren’t from Amazing Spider-Man, since I’ve read every issue – yes, all of them – but I’ve read next to nothing of Spectacular or Web of).

I realize this is a long letter to be marked “Okay to Print,” so if you do print it, feel free to cut out portions that you think are unnecessary (just leave in my request for more Mr. and Mrs.!) One final note, I notice on your closing page you said, “Seeya in November!” but the next issue of Family comes out in October. Surely you meant you’d see us in November, when some great issues of regular Amazing Spider-Man come out, right? (Do I get a No-Prize now? 😉 )

-M. Staples aka LOTRKing
P.S. If you print this, it would be insanely awesome if you include the address for my comic book review blog: http://LOTRKing.wordpress.com

Casual Saturdays: Review of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2 stars) August 2, 2008

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Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Straying from the world of comics for a moment, I thought I’d take a crack at reviewing this. Sad to say, I was extremely disappointed by this movie. I loved the first two (four our of five stars in my book, both of ‘em, with the second being slightly better) and I realized that this one would be significantly different what with a new Mummy (and a new Evy) but I didn’t realize that it would be significantly less entertaining.

It starts out with an interesting enough premise. An ancient Chinese emperor gained control over the five elements (fire, earth, water, wood, and metal) through sorcery and after taking control of all of China, his next goal was the world. Knowing that he could not possibly live long enough to see this accomplished, he wished to live forever, and hearing of a witch who knew the secrets of immortality, he sent his most trusted general to find her. Of course, said witch is anything but an old hag and both the general and the emperor desire her when they first see her. Long story short, the general sleeps with her, the jealous emperor commands that he be given immortality or the general will die, she seemingly grants it to him, but he kills the general anyway, only to be revealed that she cursed the emperor and his large army as they all turn to stone.

Alex, now an adult and archeologist in his own right, discovers the emperor’s tomb and eventually the Mummy (if you can even call him that, seeing as he’s covered in stone) is awoken. While this sounds similar to the first two Mummy movies, I was willing to run with it, and enjoy it. It all turns downhill about half-way through the movie. As Rick and family are fighting this Mummy and his minions in a village which will show the way to Shangri-La, a ninja chick (introduced earlier in the movie, allied with the O’Connells, who cheesily falls in love with Alex) runs to an archway and shouts some cheesy line (something along the lines of “We’re in trouble! Come save us!”) only to have three Yeti come out of nowhere and help out the good guys. Now I knew there was going to be at least one Yeti in the movie from the previews, but I assumed he would be guarding a sacred tomb, or something, and must be defeated. Instead there are three Yeti who come when called to save the good guys.

Unfortunately, the movie just gets more ridiculous from there. Add to the fact that the aforementioned ninja chick can’t act and has an annoying voice, that Rick and this new Evy have no chemistry whatsoever, and that most of the plot points are similar to the first two movies or even occasionally a couple other random movies, and you have a failed film. I was looking forward to this movie so much. “The final great film of an awesome movie summer, this will be,” said I. But unfortunately, I was very wrong. To anyone who enjoyed the first two Mummy movies as much as I did, do yourself a favor and try to pretend that this one doesn’t exist.

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: To Return Next Month July 5, 2008

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As mentioned in this announcement, Casual Saturdays will return next month. Until then, here is a new announcement: seeing as I’ve dropped The Twelve (I’ll get the second TPB for 7-12), I’m picking up Astonishing X-Men. I hadn’t originally planned to pick up anything when dropping it, but after reading AXM 25, and being told that despite Uncanny’s lengthy history Astonishing is now the flagship X-title, and since I’m not a huge X-fan and probably should be given my rabidly devoted Marvelism, I’m picking it up. Expect a review of 25 either next week, or the week after. And just to throw in another link, here is a comic book industry “report card” to which I contributed.

-LOTRKing