Saturday Review: Munchkin #1

Screenshot_2015-01-31-11-24-46Munchkin (BOOM! Studios)
Written by Tom Siddell and Jim Zub
Art by Mike Holmes and Rian Sygh

Christmas morning is a magical time that comes but once a year. Most people wake up and gather around the tree to tear open their gifts and see what Santa has brought them. I, on the other hand, spent my Christmas morning fighting monsters and stabbing my friends in the back for fun and profit. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was playing Munchkin! For those poor souls that haven’t been fortunate to play this amazing game, it is…amazing (shhhh, I haven’t had coffee yet). This week the Munchkin brand has finally expanded into comics with Munchkin #1.

I’m very pleased to say that the book lives up to the reputation of the game, which is saying quite a bit. One of the things that makes Munchkin such a massive fan favorite is the tongue in cheek sense of humor which takes swings at role-playing games, primarily D&D. This first issue is broken into three shorts, all of which maintain that humor, even in a more narrative setting. The first two are written by Tom Siddell with art by Mike Holmes and the third is written by Jim Zub with art by Rian Sygh.

The first short is almost an explanation of what Munchkin is about, as though a couple kids were reading the instruction book. It provides a great take on the ridiculous nature of roleplaying games in general  and their alternate realm of danger and adventure. Of course, there are absolutely no consequences in real life and the characters know that. Mike Holmes’ art is keeping with the style of game artist John Kovalic, and at first I didn’t realize it was a different person, though on further inspection, Holmes’ art is a bit more refined. There isn’t much storytelling in this particular short, as it is intended to read more like an instruction manual (albeit a really funny one) than an actual story. This is one of the great things about comics. Having pages of an issue tell no story at all, and still be totally worthwhile is something that is really unique to the medium.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-11-25-17

The second tale is one of an adventuring group, with a particularly weak link in their group. While everyone else has amazing characters and embraces the idea that they can be anything they want to be in their mental universe, the weak link seems to embrace the mundane and mediocre. Anyone who has game mastered for a while knows the pain involved with players like this. As the party runs through the dungeon, it provides for some great action while the dialogue is going on. I really like it when a writer and artist can provide this level of coordination so that the action and words work together, even when they aren’t directly related. And again, Tom Siddell demonstrates his understanding of the game’s sensibilities by matching the humor exactly.

The final short finds readers hot on the dungeon crawl with Spyke and a “noob.” Those familiar with the game will recognize Spyke and much of his gear from the Munchkin core game. Personally, I’m a big fan of his “Boots of Butt-Kicking.” Spyke is trying to explain how a Munchkin dungeon crawl works to his less experienced companion, who happens to be less than prepared for the dangers that await him. While keeping the same general feel and style as the game and the previous two stories, Rian Sygh has a much cleaner art style that is a little more typical of all-ages comics. I would have to say that while kids may not get all of the jokes that are in this issue, it’s pretty kid friendly, despite actually being aimed at adults. This story also gets at the most accurate element of Munchkin; betrayal, backstabbing, and the benefits of doing so. Have I mentioned how much I love this game?

Screenshot_2015-01-31-11-25-36

I have to admit that the reason I bought this issue is that it came with a free Munchkin card. Given how much I enjoy playing the game, it seemed like a good deal to me. Now that I’ve read the issue, I’m even more pleased with my decision. I’ve got a new card for the game and I’ve had some really great laughs, which is all I could have asked for. 5/5 Death Stars

5/5 Death Stars

5/5 Death Stars

3 Comments

Filed under Comic Reviews, Comics, Saturday Reviews

Around the Web January 30, 2015

Of course the biggest news this week is the announcement of an all female cast for the reboot of Ghostbusters. Reactions have been mixed and I have to say that I’m a bit skeptical myself. Now, to be clear, I have no issue with the fact that it’s an all female cast, or any of the specific women that were cast. My skeptisism comes from the idea of the movie being a reboot. Sure, I’d love another Ghostbusters movie and when this one comes out, you can bet that I’m going to go see it. But as a friend of mine recently put it, why would you reboot what is possibly the most perfect comedy in history? Unfortunately, no matter how good the movie is, it is likely that people will think less of it because of its amazing predecessor. On the positive side,  both Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson have come out in support of the new cast (as has Terry Crews).

ghostbusters

I’d also like to point out that Ghostbusters II was not as good as the original, and it had the exact same cast.

Lego has announced a brand new model, and this one is not for the faint of heart. The newest model is the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier from Avengers. This thing comes in at a whooping 2996 pieces! While this is about 900 pieces fewer than the massive Lego Death Star (which also weighs in at eighteen pounds), the Helicarrier is almost three feet long. This is both amazing and massive. Part of me really wants this. The other part of me is terrified that I would get it together and would then drop it, watching it explode into 3000 razor sharp Lego blocks.While this may seem like an irrational fear, remember that so far in the Marvel cinematic universe, 75% of all Helicarriers crash. Those are not good odds. Thankfully this set comes with a $350 pricetag, so I won’t be getting it any time soon.

lego-helicarrier-box

For those who doubt that those pieces would be harmful to walk on, take like 20 Lego bricks,walk on them, see how it feels,and then tell me I’m wrong.

I don’t know about other people, but I never really understood the differences in shutter speed on a camera. I mean, I understood the physical difference, which ones were faster and what not, but I didn’t get what was physically going on. Thanks to one of my favorite YouTube channel, The Slow Mo Guys, I can see exactly what is going on in a DSL camera. In the video Gavin uses one of his high speed cameras to examine his own DSL camera and how it works. It’s also cool that this is the camera that has done all the real speed shoots for The Slow Mo Guys. It is quite the battle tested work horse.

There is some kind of bizarre irony about filming a camera film another camera, but I like it

Leave a comment

Filed under Around the Web, Weekly

Comic Book Copycats

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the old saying goes. While this might be true sometimes, it is just as often the excuse given to justify taking someone else’s ideas and trying to claim them as one’s own. The comic industry is no exception. From the very early days, once a hero started to become popular, it was only a matter of time before someone else was slapping a slightly different costume on an eerily similar creation and packaging it to sell.

Captain_Marvel_0001

Captain Marvel (Shazam)

Without question, one of the biggest victims of this is Superman. He was the first, so it’s only natural that creators have gravitated towards him in their efforts to make their own characters. Best known of these knockoffs is Captain Marvel (Not to be confused with the Marvel character of the same name). At one time, both Superman and Captain Marvel were hugely popular comics with issues selling as much as several million copies. Of course there were some obvious differences between the two characters—mostly having to do with how they received their powers—but both had similar power sets and even looked similar. Eventually these similarities, as well as Captain Marvel’s sales numbers, led DC Comics to sue Captain Marvel’s publisher, Fawcett Publications and a film company who had made a Captain Marvel feature in the early 1940’s. Eventually DC won the lawsuit (after a few interesting circumstances) and Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel stories. In a somewhat odd twist of fate, DC eventually licensed Captain Marvel and the rest of his family from Fawcett and began publishing new comics, finally acquiring the full rights to the character in 1991.

1657724-time_masters___vanishing_point__6_004

Professor Zoom

Not all copycat characters are rip-offs by other companies. Often publishers allow copies of characters to serve as enemies of the original. In a way, this makes perfect sense. It’s often said that a person is their own worst enemy, so what better and simpler way to make a villain than to copy the hero in negative. For instance, Reverse-Flash, in various different forms, has been a foe of the Flash since the Golden Age.

With the Flash, it’s pretty easy to invent an antithetical character with similar powers. All the character needs is some super speed—although Professor Zoom (one of the Reverse-Flashes) takes things a step further and wears an inverted Flash costume.

Flash isn’t the only character to have this kind of mirror treatment either. Hal Jordan has long battled his former mentor Sinestro, who wields a yellow power ring to combat Jordan’s green. In fact, DC has gone so far as to create multiple colored corps like the Green Lanterns. Each corps has its own color of light, corresponding with a different part of the emotional spectrum. (At this point, DC may have gone a bit overboard, but it has made for some good stories in the past.)

sinestro_corps_war_by_rinaldosetiawan-d654t1m

Green Lantern and Sinestro Corps

Copying characters isn’t just about money. Often times it’s done as a parody. Take one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe: Deadpool. Everybody’s favorite (ok…almost everybody’s) merc-with-a-mouth is actually a sardonic copy of DC’s Deathstroke. Deadpool’s creators even gave the original a nod by naming the character Wade Wilson, nearly identical to Deathstroke’s real name, Slade Wilson. While Deadpool might have started off as a nearly identical copy, he has now, of course, become more parody than anything else. Often the character is aware that he is in a comic book and even goes so far as to break the fourth wall and talk directly to readers (and occasionally his own writer). When in the hands of a skilled writer, Deadpool can provide an amusing look at comics as a medium and their unique, storytelling capabilities.

While parody is usually used for humor, it can also be utilized for more productive or introspective ends. When creator Steve Gerber was trying to sue Marvel over the rights to his character Howard the Duck, he and artist Jack Kirby wrote several comics called Destroyer Duck which parodied Howard. The comic was sold both as a means to raise funds for Gerber’s legal fees, and also to raise awareness of the treatment that comic writers received at the hands of large publishers. Though Gerber was ultimately unsuccessful in gaining the rights to Howard, Destroyer Duck gives readers a unique insight on Gerber’s feelings towards his creation and the company that owned it.

Characters are often copied in order to answer the ever-burning question of “what if…” Books like Invincible and Irredeemable use Superman as an archetype to explore a variety of what ifs. These books take the basic idea of what Superman is and begin to experiment with him in ways that couldn’t be done in the pages of Superman or Action Comics. Both Invincible and Irredeemable explore what would happen if Superman were not the upstanding citizen and hero he is, but instead were either an alien sent to prepare Earth for invasion or a hero who can no longer take the strain and criticism leveled at him, and snaps.  While these characters may have started out as copies of Superman, they go far beyond that, really becoming their own, unique characters, in spite of their origins.

Watchmencharacters

The Watchmen

No discussion of copied characters would be complete without at least touching on what is arguably the greatest comic of all time: Watchmen. Originally, Alan Moore had intended to use the characters that DC had recently acquired from Charlton Comics. Having a general idea of what Moore had planned, DC decided not to allow that, since they knew that the characters they had just spent money on would wind up dead or damaged by the time Moore’s story was done. Instead, Alan Moore created new characters that were loosely based (some more loosely than others) on the Charlton characters. This allowed Moore the freedom to tell his story and DC to keep their newest additions. While this was a practical decision on the part of DC, it had an unintended effect. By modeling his cast of characters after existing superheroes, Alan Moore was able to make the characters instantly relatable to readers, which in turn allowed Moore to do more with them and force readers to react more strongly to them, despite the fact that they were all characters that readers had never seen before. Although Moore is undeniably a genius, it’s difficult to say whether he would have had the same level of success if he had gotten what he originally wanted and used the existing characters.

Ultimately, it doesn’t much matter the reason why a character was copied. Rather, how they are used and the stories that are told are the most important factors. While it is nearly impossible to avoid influence, it is always best to take care when it comes to established characters. Creators and companies tend to get defensive when they feel their rights have been infringed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics

Old School Pizza: Nostalgia Done Right

There’s nothing quite like playing beach volleyball when the majority of people you know are freezing to death back home.  While most of my friends were complaining about the cold snap over New Year’s holiday, I was fortunate enough to be vacationing in Florida.  I should mention that I’m a big foodie, so when I go anywhere I prefer to find local spots to fill my belly with new experiences.  One night during my sojourn, I found myself craving pizza and I asked the friend I was staying with if there were any local pizza places.  His answer was no, which wasn’t really surprising given that we were in an area of the country that has a large population of retirees, but I must admit that his disconsolate face harshed my party buzz.  What is a fellow to do?DSCN0051

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Geek Life, Staff Writer