Sunday, November 26, 2017

EUCON 2017 - My Experiences

https://eugenecomiccon.com/

It was great to be back at EUCON after not being able to go last year. I enjoy going to all the local events, and sometimes I wished there were a few more. If I have to be honest, I think there are almost enough for my actual ability to go to each of them.

Unfortunately for me, the photos that we took at this years event didn't turn-out so everything I use is courtesy of someone else. I feel like the last few events I've been to, I've had some kind of technical difficulty. My deepest apologies for the delay in posting this recap of EUCON.

When I arrived, I noticed that yet again the parking lot was nearly filled to capacity. I'm glad that there's not a charge for parking as there usually is for events like Rose City Comic Con, Cherry City Comic Con or Emerald City Comic Con.

Upon crossing the threshold of the entrance, I was taken back by how much larger it had gotten from the first year. And right there was Corvallis' own Matt's Cavalcade of Comics with his huge display of Funko Pops. I always appreciate stopping at Matt's when I go to events because there's always several Pops that I need for my collection. This year was no different.
First Doctor for my friend Scott, who is an avid Dr. Who fan.
I've always been a Star Wars collector from the beginning.
I never seem to find the exclusive Pops at Target.
Another good thing about the local events, I always get to re-connect with several Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer contributing artists. This year I was fortunate to touch base with Shawn & AnnMare Cruz from Corrosive Comics Studio, Robert "Floydman" Sumner from Planet F Studios, Ron Randall, Kristel Joslin from Kristel's Kreations, Randy Emberlin and even Jason Metcalf.

As I was strolling around, taking in all the sights, I noticed that Toys for Tots was even represented at this years event. As I've mentioned before, I appreciate seeing non-profit's at comic events.

Photo from KEZI.
If I had to find one thing that disappointed me it would be the fact that some of the celebrities that I was looking forward to meeting cancelled. I know this is par for any event and it isn't something that EUCON could control.

When I hear that both wrestlers Paige and Alberto Del Rio were going to attend, I was considering finding their action figures for them to sign.


The first celeb that was announced for EUCON this year was Cooper Andrews from The Walking Dead. I was hoping that my friend Scott would be able to add another autograph to his growing collection on his Walking Dead comic he received as a Christmas gift from his wife a few years back.


When I first hear that he was only able to make it on Saturday due to a filming conflict, my thoughts raced to the idea that he had to go film Talking Dead because his character, "Jerry", had died. Then it was announced that he wouldn't be able to attend at all, I was certain that I was right. Of course they wouldn't want an actor attend an event the day before their character was going to be killed off the show. On Saturday, I found this posted on Facebook and my heart sunk.

After watching the episode, I was happy that I was wrong.
I'm eagerly looking forward to next years event. I know that for as good as this year was, next years will be even better. If going to Rose City Comic Con for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer doesn't pan out, I think that I will work to focus my attention to representing at next years EUCON. As much as I would love to be able to attend both for the full duration to help spread the word for #CBC4C, I doubt that I would be able to afford doing both. I'm just starting to work the numbers now. If I can budget for having enough for both, you will see it here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

Title:  Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

ISBN: 9781568585598
Price: $16.99
Publisher/Year: Nation Books, 2017
Artist: Koren Shadmi
Writer: David Kushner

Rating: 3.5/5

Storytelling was never the same after Dungeons & Dragons. When players, guided by a dungeon master, knit a dense narrative whose many threads are each supported by their neighbors, it makes the case that many voices are greater than one. This is the pitch on which Dungeons & Dragons stakes its brand.

We see the same technique in Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D, a new graphic novel about how cherished D&D co-creator Gary Gygax birthed Dungeons & Dragons. Together, author David Kushner (Masters of Doom) and artist Koren Shadmi animate the characters orbiting Gygax throughout D&D’s origin story. It’s not just the combination of narrative, dialogue and illustration that gives Rise of the Dungeon Master the multi-voiced feel. Kushner’s chapters begin with second-person callouts like “You are Ernest Gary Gygax” or “You are [co-creator] Dave Arneson,” continuing that conceit throughout the tales of poring over miniatures and calculating stat tables. It’s a bid for readers’ emotional investment. It works. Rise of the Dungeon Master is an enchanting history of Dungeon & Dragons, and of Gary Gygax, that you can read in one sitting.

And yet, perhaps Gygax has enjoyed enough time on D&D’s altar of hero worship.

Rise of the Dungeon Master is about the first, and the most authoritative, dungeon master, the face and the brand identity of a franchise that lives and dies by its players and not by its personalities. But as a fundamentally participatory storytelling medium, D&D’s origin is owed to the players, not just the dungeon masters. As of now, their voices are eclipsed.

This graphic novel is actually the second book to fully chronicle the life of Dungeons & Dragons’s much-venerated co-creator. The first, 2015’s Empire of Imagination, written by Gygax devotee Michael Witwer, was almost as much fanfiction as biography. With broad strokes, Witwer painted the picture of a Gygax who was in turns a loving father and strict superintendent of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. Witwer’s narrative is that Dungeons & Dragons sprung from the enterprising, tactical mind of its genius creator, with a little help from co-creator Dave Arneson, a rules guy, and a lot of resistance from soulless suits who hoped to wrest D&D from Gygax’s prying hands (In 1985, the company Gygax founded to publish D&D ousted him.)

While Witwer’s focus was on the business of Dungeons & Dragons, Kushner and Shadmi’s tale dwells more on its brand personality, with Gygax as the face of that brand. Kushner’s narrative of how Dungeons & Dragons grew from a whimsical take on wargaming to a collaborative fantasy game is a smooth one. Gygax grew up as an all-American child of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he would roam the town’s underground tunnels and shoot birds with his BB gun. At age 18, Gygax discovered H.G. Wells’ Little Wars, a wargame that had players—“boys” and “that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books,” the book quotes—control infantry, cavalry and artillery to play out battles. Tactics took a front seat. Gygax, a devoted rules enthusiast, relished in outthinking his opponents.

Gygax rejected the “tedious” story and quippy dialogue of Lord of the Rings, today a reference point for Dungeons & Dragons, preferring Robert E. Howard’s pulp world of Conan the Barbarian. It was Conan’s sword-and-sorcery adventures that inspired Gygax’s Chainmail, his first role-playing game for medieval miniatures. Later, Gygax and Arneson would pitch its expanded fantasy ruleset, which it eventually dubbed Dungeons & Dragons, as a tactics-heavy fantasy wargame.

If you compare Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures to today’s, it will strike you how much control—and veneration—he allocates to the dungeon master. In the “Notes for the Dungeon Master”of his famous “Tomb of Horrors” module, he warns that players who are not clever will not enjoy the module. He goes on to detail everything from the false entrance tunnel’s exact dimensions (“at the count of 1 only a slight bit protrudes, at 2 it is 2'+ a bit out into the corridor, at 3 it is 4'+, at 4 it is 6'+, at 5 it is 9', at 6 it Is 11'+, at 7 it is 13'+, at 8 it is at 16', at 9 the block is 18'+ across. . .”). In his Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Gygax again assigns great narrative power to the DM: “Here are the bones of the adventure. You must breathe life into this framework after you flesh it out.”

It is he, the smiling, all-knowing dungeon master, who controls the game’s mysteries. An afterthought, players are the puppets who act out the fantasy. And yet, Kushner writes, “D&D will live and die by word of mouth.” Well, who are these players who proselytized the game? How did their write-in rule suggestions make their way into official material? Rise of the Dungeon Master doesn’t say.

Today’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures ask more of the player and less of the dungeon master. Scenarios are open-ended. Dungeon dimensions are less particular, to leave room for players’ whimsies. On top of their race, class, alignment and stats, today’s character sheets want to know why the player adventures, and what they ultimately hope to gain. Today’s Dungeon Master’s Guild, an official D&D website that publishes anyone’s adventures and additions to the game, tells us who really owns its legacy. It was Gygax who originally fought against making the ruleset open source.

Rise of the Dungeon Master is a masterful telling of the story of Gygax, his co-creator and collaborators, but it is done in service of the almighty DM. Today is the age of the player, and we are a vital part of the history of Dungeons & Dragons sorely missed in histories such as these.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

8 years now, and making some changes

Has it actually been 8 years now? I remember having so many trades to read and review. Stacks of each. These days, the stack of trades to read is not nearly as tall and same with the stack of trades needing to be reviewed. My resources for purchasing new trades has been very limited the past few years, and I haven't been buying as much.

My biggest thrill is when I go to events like Rose City Comic Con and get to find vendors that have trades marked down to an incredible level. Buying trades for even less than what I would pay for them in a used book store is such a great feeling. Unfortunately, I have been looking at these opportunities as a collector and not just a reviewer. I've been cherry-picking for volume 1's of titles I've not read yet where most of the available stock are later volumes because they didn't fair as well as the first. I see this now as I write this article, and I am disappointed in myself.

Because of this shortage, I have been trying to find ways to branch-out to keep my blog interesting for you.

You'll notice that for several years I've been covering events around the Northwest as a member of the press. I've been blessed to be included in the past several Rose City Comic Con's, and this year I was fortunately to be able to cover the first Northwest Comic Con (now Oregon Coast Comic Con). As I'm writing this, I'm waiting to hear back from Eugene Comic Con (EUCON) to see if I'll be covering it as a member of the press.

I hope that the reviews that I've been posting for these events have been helpful to both the event coordinators and attendees. I would like to take some measure of credit for Rose City expanding to 3 days.


Looking forward to 2018, I'm planning on making a large push for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer (#CBC4C). I'll be attending Oregon Coast Comic Con in March, and I'm going to try my hardest to get a table or booth at Rose City Comic Con. This will not only take a lot of my time to prepare, but it will also take additional resources (funding) to make sure I have enough to warrant having a table at both of these events. For Oregon Coast Comic Con, I have recently made an agreement with artist Neil Jorge to do a con exclusive print for CBC4C. I'm very excited to see what he comes up with. I'm hoping to do something similar for Rose City.

Going forward, I think I may also branch-out to start doing some interviews with people in the comics world. I'm inspired to try this because earlier this year, Warrior Innkeeper Creative publisher Benjamin Kreger interviewed me as part of a "Worthy Wednesday" piece for his Black Suit of Death #2 Kickstarter.

I'm still going to be writing my reviews, but they will only be published occasionally instead of on a regular basis like they used to be. This should be a huge issue to my loyal readers as this has been going on for the past year now... at least. I apologize for that, and I hope I've been able to make it worth the while with other posts.

Thank you all for your continued support. Please keep track of me here and on Facebook. Here's hoping for a great year 9!

-John "Zanziber" Rogers

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Conversation with Stephen King & Owen King - My Experience

 A Conversation with Stephen King & Owen King
October 3, 2017 @ the Newmark Theatre in Portland, OR

Growing-up, my mother and eldest sister were huge fans of Stephen King. I remember the first of his books that I read back when I was in 5th grade. It was "Cycle of the Werewolf" and the biggest thing that drew my attention to it were the illustrations that were done by Bernie Wrightson. 


Reading this book at this time in my life definitely made an incredible impact of my development into the man I am today. It was from that single book that not only developed my fascination for King's writing, but also sparked my imagination while I was also coming into my own as a roleplayer. I can honestly say that the work of Stephen King has made the single largest impact on how I try to play RPG's.

King's impact on the young me would carry-on through my high school years where, in my sophomore English class, I decided to study-up on the man behind the writing for a project we were given. I was very excited, and put a great deal of time and research into it. When it was all said and done, I turned it in to my teach for grading. When my report was returned to me, the teacher was very critical not about my writing, but about my subject matter. He called King "full of himself" and overrated. My response to him was a simple one that did not help my grade one bit: "How many novels have you ever published?"

Fast forward to my junior year in high school when they decided to add a Creative Writing class into the curriculum. I was excited to join, until I found out that the same teacher who had scoffed at my project just a year before was the instructor for this class as well. *sigh* I persevered and this was the time in my life where I had firmly decided that I wanted to become a writer.

That was a long time ago, and I still occasionally feel the urge to write, my mind always races and I have never been able to complete a single writing project that I have started. When I was in high school, I kept a notebook full of story ideas. I never got around to writing any of them, but I remember that I have tried to develop several of them. I wish I still had that notebook today.

Now that the backstory has been set, let me bring you to the current day.

When I had learned that King and his youngest son, Owen, were doing a book tour and would be coming to Portland, I knew that I had to be there. For months I kept my eye on King's website to find out when the tickets were going to be available. The date had already been set, but there was no confirmation of the actual location. My hopes were that it would be similar to the event I went to several years ago for Neil Gaiman. I was giddy as a school girl with the thought of actually meeting my life-long hero in writing. The source of so many of my dreams and nightmares. The man I wanted to aspire to for so long.

When the ticket information was released, my heart sank when I learned that it would not be a personal signing and rather a talking event featuring the King's. I was not deterred. I knew that I had to go, and when the day arrived that the tickets became available, I was online about 30 minutes after and place my order for the "best available" tickets. What came-up was 2nd balcony. Although I was saddened by the fact that I would be so far away from seeing King, I did not allow this to upset me.

October 3, 2017 came. I drove to Portland, which I despise driving in, and found a decent and inexpensive place to park that was only about 2 blocks away from the venue. I had never been to the Newmark Theatre before so I wasn't sure what I was in for. My excitement was difficult to contain... until I got to my seat, that is.

I knew that I would be very close to the stage, but I wasn't prepared for the actual distance I experienced.


My bigger disappointment was about the actual seats more so that the location of them. As those readers who have seen photographs of me or have met me in person know, I am not a small man. As Gabriel Iglesias would say (and I prefer the term), I am a "fluffy" man. the seats were narrow and the arms dug-in to my sides. There was also absolutely no legroom and I was constantly concerned that one of both of my calves would cramp during the event. Happily, this did not happen.

Without any editing, this was my view of the ceiling from a seated position at my seat.


About 10 minutes later that the event was scheduled to begin, Miriam Sontz, CEO of Powell's Books took the stage. When she entered the stage, she had a single red balloon with her, and the audience cheered. It was at that point that 2 things were made apparent to me that I was unsure about before the event: 1) There was to be no photography during the event. 2) Only 400 copies of the book we were there for were going to be signed and randomly distributed. After the event, I went to the website, and wouldn't you know it... the disclosure of only 400 signed copies was right there where I didn't even notice it before.

*sigh*

Fortunately, Stephen and Owen King made the rest of the evening worth the wait and discomfort. They began by reading part of their new book, "Sleeping Beauties". Owen started and the Stephen completed the reading. I have never read any of Owen King's previous work, but as they read I could not begin to sense that it was actually written by 2 different men. The words were so fluid and the writing seemed of a single person. I have shared the storyteller duties in games several times in the past, and the storyline has always been woven well... but I couldn't imagine working with someone else to actually write a complete story or novel together; blending each others words and thoughts together to become a single entity. From what was read, I became interested in reading more from Owen.

I learned more about the man I had idolized since I was a kid. I found out that to earn money as a child, Owen would make his father customized books on tape, beginning with Dean Koontz's "Watchers". Later, as an adult, Owen gifted his father with a complete audio edition of Tolstoy's "War and Peace", which actually spanned from cassette tapes to CD's because of the advance in technology that had occurred while making it.

The Q&A portion of the evening was enjoyable. I could tell that the Kings were enjoying themselves up on stage as they passed the cards of questions from the audience to each other. While there were the occasional witty comments about Donald Trump, the evening never got political. The audience and I enjoyed the snarky comments and allowed the men to continue on their thoughts.

At the end of the event, each person received their hardback copy of "Sleeping Beauties" wrapped in a Powell's paper bag. I still have not opened mine to find out if it was one of the 400 or not. When I returned to my car, there was great rejoicing from a young lady in another vehicle in the garage as she found that she was once of the lucky 400. I don't intend on posting if mine was signed or not. Sorry to disappoint.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rose City Comic Con 2017 - My Experiences

https://rosecitycomiccon.com/
Rose City Comic Con has come and gone for this year, and again it was a wonderful event! I have been to every RCCC since the beginning, and 2017 was by far my favorite year so far!

Before I go any further, let me apologize for the delay in the publication of this review. Days after Rose City, my laptop crashed and I was unable to retrieve any of the photos that I took and didn't have a fully functional computer until now. I am thankful that I shared at least some of the photo's on my Facebook page. When/if I can retrieve the photo's from my hard drive, I will add them as an addendum.

The great part about 2017 was that they expanded it to a 3-day event. This was a common thought among the people I spoke with last year. from what I experienced, I think that it was a wise choice to make.

Another change that was made was that RCCC moved the badge pick-up are upstairs and used the area where they used to have the pick-up open for the celeb area and where they displayed 3 different transformer vehicles.


This was a nice use of space, IMHO.


My personal priority for day 1 was to get in line for "Weird Al" Yankovic, as I have been a fan since I was a kid. My first LP (vinyl record) was "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D; and I still have it and my copy of Dare to Be Stupid over at my parents house.

The only issue is that they decided to queue people right in front of the celeb area, and did not open the lines for these guests until all the people who were queued to enter were allowed to enter. Not sure that was a great decision to make, but I'm not going to complain too much. I was still able to get a good place in line for the signing.

Let's now go back to last year when "Weird Al" came to McMenamins Edgefield, I had decided to commission artist Robert "Floydman" Sumner for a Star Wars comic book cover with "Weird Al" on it. When "Weird Al" was announced as a guest for RCCC, I knew that I wanted to have him sign said cover.

When I finally made it to the man himself and presented the Star Wars Annual cover to sign, he marveled at it for quite a while, believing that it was commercial work and that he had seen it before. I made sure he knew that it was a custom piece, and he was taken aback by the artwork and asked if he could take a photo of it. I couldn't tell him no. I was also able to get proof positive that I actually and finally was able to meet my all-time music idol.


Once I was able to get that off my to do list, I started to get a better look around. I was able to check-in with artists Gene Guilmette, Ben Hansen and Ron Randall; who have all contributed to my non-profit, Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. With the expanded show floor, there was so much to take in.

As opposed to years past, I didn't overload myself with items to have signed. I know that in prior years I have felt that I spent so much time trying to get items signed that I missed getting to panels or get to meet new people at the event. Point of fact, when I took some time to grab a seat and rest my feet, I actually took in a panel about solving a Rubix Cube.


It's unfortunate that I don't have more of my day 1 photos. I was actually happy with myself for taking so many this year.

Day 2 started early enough that so many artists and vendors weren't even at their tables. It was the only time I found the Hero Initiative booth, and nobody was available for me to buy some of their books. But I was able to hit the I Like Comics booth and take advantage of their $4 trades.

Early on, I also got to drop by Mike Zeck's booth. His wife was bringing people in while Mike worked on some art. She informed me of the special/limited G.I. Joe cover that was available. When I saw it, I knew I needed it for my collection.

She also mentioned that there was a deal if I bought the G.I. Joe comic, then the prints would be half of the posted cost. There was a set of Spider-Man covers from the "Kraven's Last Hunt" storyline that were grouped together for a special price. I asked if there was a special deal if I bought the comic and the Spider-Man prints. She began to tell me that there wasn't, but then Mike "corrected" her. I told them that they had a deal. It was at that point that Zeck realized his error, but was a man of his word and sold the prints and comic to me for the agreed upon price. So now, I also have these wonderful additions to my print collection.


Special thanks go to artists Andy and Veronica Fish, Katie Cook, Jim Mahfood and Jason Metcalf for allowing me to pick-up their donated covers from them with our CBCS Comics witness.


Due to timing issues, Chip Zdarsky and Valentine De Landro dropped their covers off at the CBCS booth. Looking forward to seeing how they all turn out once graded.


As for the Batgirl issues that were going to be signed, Since Brenden Fletcher was a no-show, our CBCS witness informed me that artist Cameron Stewart was attending as well, so we got his and Babs Tarr's signatures on them. They are also in the hands of CBCS for grading.


Unfortunately I was unable to touch base with every contributing artist who was attending, and I am sorry to those I didn't get a chance to stop by and say "Thank you" to.


The goal for next year is to receive a table for the event so we can continue to promote the cause. That means that there will be calls for fundraising to help get us there, so keep your eyes peeled in 2018 for those announcements.



As mentioned previously, the next series of auctions will be determined once the covers donated at RCCC return from CBCS. I'm thinking around the beginning of December. You can always keep updated on our Facebook page.

As for the additions to my signature collection, I stopped to visit Skottie Young:










Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64 - No Power in the 'Verse
Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64 - Leaves on the Wind

When I went to the last ever Stumptown Comic Fest, I picked-up the volume 1 & 2 of Witch Doctor from Brandon Seifert. That was back in 2013. Since then, I have tried to keep my eyes opened for when Lukas Ketner was going to be making an appearance in a local con. 2017 was my year to finally get his autograph on my trades.



And even though I am a huge Funko Pop collector, I only picked-up a single new addition to my collection from Matt's Cavalcade of Comics.


Dates for next years event have already been announced: September 7-8, 2018. I'm planning on being there, one way or another. If I am unable to get a table for #CBC4C, then I hope that I will again be allowed to officially cover the event as a member of the media.