02 February 2020

I Own What Comic?

So, it may not seem like it at first, but this post is about my appreciation for Rom, Spaceknight and one thing that fascination has led to in my life.

So it was recently pointed out on Twitter by fellow Rom fan PTOR, that Rom has appeared anew in Marvel Comics. Sort of. In the wake of Stan Lee's death, Marvel has been rerunning some of his old Soapbox columns that are of more timeless topics. The one reprinted in Marvel's January 2020 comics was originally published in February 1980. (And I'm just going to insert PTOR's scan here.)


Now, look right under Stan's Soapbox. If you're a Rom fan, you'll notice part of an ad that's familiar. It's the small house ad Marvel used to promote then new Rom comic book. (Scan also stolen from PTOR.)


So, after finding out about this, another fan known as A Rom Curator, started trying to identify every comic that the reprinted Stan's Soapbox column appeared in. He sent me a list and I attempted to help him out a bit the next few times I went to my local comic shop. Some of the comics he wondered about were part of Marvel's budget reprint line, True Believers.

My copy of Daredevil #131
When I went to one shop, they only had two of these titles left. One was True Believers: Criminally Insane — Bullseye, reprinting his first appearance and origin from Daredevil #131. I didn't recognize the cover, but when I opened it to the first page and saw Daredevil was fighting the Rocketeers, the foes of Rom's ally, the Torpedo. "Wait a second", I thought. I consulted the database of my comics collection on my phone. "I own an original copy of this issue! Is it worth something?" It turns out, yes, it is. a CGC graded 9.8 copy of it sold for $2,000! Lower quality examples had sold for substantially less, but still over $100.

So eventually I pulled out my copy. It's in very good shape, but not a 9.8. I've never been a believer in slabbing comics, but now I'm wondering if it might be worth it. I could use the money and now I've got a reprint of the issue. (Yes, I bought a copy of the True Believers reprint.) But there's still something about owning the original, not a reprint. I don't remember what I paid for it back in the day, but it was probably less than $10. Possibly less than $5.

So, what I'm trying to say is this. I bought the comic in which Bullseye debuted because the Rocketeers were in it. I cared because they were related to the Torpedo, who was in Rom. And I found out the comic was Bullseye's debut and worth something because I was trying to help out another Rom fan. Thanks, Rom!

03 January 2020

Suite 101 Bio

[Poking around some files, I discovered the autobiography I wrote for my time as an editor at Suite 101. Apparently I never put it up here on my blog, so here you go. It was probably written in late 1996. I've tweaked it slightly.]

 I was born in 1971. Later that same year, a new industry called "video games" was born with the release of Computer Space. Like me, it wasn't until 1972 that the industry took off. For them, it was with the release of the original Magnavox Odyssey and Pong. When we finally met, I knew we were destined to be together.

Actually, I no longer remember the first video game I saw. Perhaps it was Space War or some simplistic, black and white driving game. Regardless, I was attracted to them. Then a guy named Pac-Man came along and I was truly hooked. From the time Pac-Man was released to around the time I started high school, I just couldn't get enough. I would spend a good portion of my time and money in the local arcade. Then, when the money was gone, I'd go home and crank up the Atari 2600 and play some more. It was fun while it lasted.

It happens that my entering high school coincided with a crash in the video game market. This crash, coupled with the new distractions of high school, caused video games and me to lose touch with each other for awhile. It was video games, however, that led me into computers. I have come to make a career out of working with computers, as many other netizens have. There is no doubt in my mind that much of what led me down this path were the video games I played when I was younger.

Around the time I finished high school and began college to get a degree in Computer Science, I noticed that I could now get Atari 2600 cartridges much cheaper than before. The 2600 was on the way out and the Nintendo Entertainment System was in. Being a poor college student, I began to build my collection of 2600 cartridges. Then, it happened. I discovered Usenet newsgroups, particularly one called alt.games.video.classic. There I discovered that there were other people who actually collect old video game consoles and cartridges. Amazing!

Today, I strive to help preserve the old, classic video games. There is actually a sizable community of collectors and you can find us in rec.games.video.classic. For me, at least, it is a chance to preserve my youth and ensure it will be around for future generations to see how far we've come.

30 June 2018

More past finds

Wow, it's been a while since I did this. Probably because I figured I'd mined Google Groups as much as I could at this point. This is a quintet of posts about finds I made from 1997 to 2010.

It occurred to me the other day that I no longer remember how I acquired my Supercharger. Or is it Superchargers? I can't remember now whether I have just one or two. Anyway, I started searching old e-mail files to see if I could find mention of them. No luck so far, but I rediscovered two Usenet archives of the rec.games.video.classic newsgroup I had sitting on the desktop of one of our computers that I'd downloaded from the Internet Archive.

So I loaded the first one up and searched for "Seitz". Then I searched for "Supercharger." Then I copied the results for each of those, pasted them into the same file, and sorted by the line number of the results. Unfortunately that didn't reveal much. (Or I wasn't diligent enough to finish the process. I forget already.) So then I substituted "brag" for "Supercharger" and started going through them.

That led me to these (plus some that were already on this blog).
You'd think that first post from 1997 would answer the question, but no. I found several tapes, but only one was one I didn't have. In fact, I already had the Stella Gets a New Brain Supercharger compilation CD by then. I found an old e-mail saying I got some of those tapes for free from someone because I'd gotten a Supercharger but didn't have a way to test it.

So the search for how I got the Supercharger(s) continues, but it's looking like I may not find the answer. At least I know how I acquired the games now.

14 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Grand Banquet

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jumpman's Grand Banquet

Tonight was our night for answers. Pints & Pixels was hosting a pizza night for all the Grand Puzzle's gunters. The bar was usually only available for private parties on Mondays anyway, so they simply scheduled their own. Pizza from Domino's (and mini-cupcakes from Sugar Belle) meant they didn't have to have kitchen staff, but the bar was open. Soft drinks were free; hard ones were not.

Our crew was me and my wife as my "+1" and Walter and his brother as his "+1". We were met at the door by Sherry Wallace, who is co-owner of the bar with Richard "Jumpman" Moss. It turned out she was the one who created most of the actual puzzles. So thanks to her for all her hard work. She had all the gunters sign a copy of a Ready Player One movie poster as a surprise for Richard. Walter also got a ticket for the door prize drawings. Because I'd finished in the High Five, I was getting something special instead.

The pizza arrived right after we did. I still had some tokens left from a previous trip, so the boys played a few games while they set up. Then everyone got their pizza and started eating. After a while, Richard began. First he introduced all his helpers. I didn't get all their names, but their was the lich who I think was also the Game Tech for the final Jumpman challenge, the Princess Bride reader and his helper who'd they recruited that night when so many people came through to do the lines, the guys that made the props, the Float Shop artist who'd also made plates for his puzzle, and, of course, Sherry. She wound up the thanks by presenting Richard with the poster.

A table full of prizes, door prizes, and thank you gifts.

Next we were presented with the prizes. Shadow, in fifth place, got a "squashed Jumpman box" (the laminated copy of the box cover from the Huntsville Escape Rooms challenge), the Clue game from which the pieces were used for the clear box puzzle at Toy Box Bistro, and a $5 Pints & Pixels gift card. I believe Shadow was the person I saw doing the Princess Bride lines the Tuesday night I finished the final challenge, so he made kind of a mad dash at the end to be fifth.

I, Liberator, as fourth place, got a "squashed Jumpman box", a copy of the Space Invaders Dice! game, and a $15 P&P gift card. I'd never heard of the Space Invaders Dice! game, so that was very cool. None of us can remember exactly what third place got, but it may have been a set of keys based on the movie and a $25 P&P gift card. Second place got two of the Tiny Arcade games and a $50 P&P gift card. I found out at the end of the evening that the guys in second and third were hosts of Rocket Punch, a locally produced podcast.

Then we got into the individual puzzles. In the first puzzle that lead to Lucky Dice Cafe, the "heroes spin" line did indeed refer to HeroClix, not comic book spinner racks. It seems the owner is a nationally ranked HeroClix player. They'd also originally planned to have the end of the first line, "you need to go" point gunters to the restrooms, which is where the posters would be. They thought Lucky Dice already had lots of posters in their restrooms, but it turned out they didn't have any in them, so they left them out in the main part of the store.

There wasn't much revealed about the next several puzzles that we hadn't already figured out. One detail many of us had missed was that the lich in the video (who was someone other than the lich we played against) was walking like an Egyptian as he went through the background. I also asked how many beat the lich without changing sides. Only one other gunter at the banquet raised her hand.

Then we got to that cursed box at Toy Box Bistro. It turns out the letters inside spelled out "Ulysses Grant", complete with a space for between the words. And the "U. G." in "U. G. White Mercantile" stands for Ulysses Grant, which I didn't know. When they beta tested the puzzle, there were only four tiles in the box: U, G, and two blanks. The beta testers declared that too easy, so we got more tiles.

Shortly thereafter, we discussed the damnable Ruby Key. It turns out the phrase on the key unscrambles to "IT's what we all do down here." This is in reference to a line in IT by Stephen King: "We all float down here." The Float Shop in Lowe Mill was where we had to go. What had been intended as a clue for those unfamiliar with the story, the capital I and T, had wound up messing us all up. We had been so close in correctly assuming each word was the length of the letters we got in the scramble. It also turned out the punctuation marks (apostrophe and period) were within the words they went with, even though the rest of the characters weren't already in those words. It turned out the grand prize winner, Mr. Tumnus, had figured it out eventually, but only after he'd stumbled upon the Steve at the Float Shop. He got a bonus prize of a Pints & Pixels cap for getting it.

The last puzzle of note was the word search at Haven. Walter pointed out I'd missed an uncircled letter: a J. I brought this up and Sherry handed me the word list to double-check my work. It seems I'd missed "Jem" (as in Jem and the Holograms) as one of the words.

I asked about the Jumpman level editor he used. It's called Jumpman Under Construction. The Jumpman link on the Facebook page linked to a page that then linked to the software. I'd not clicked on all the links in the Journal -- especially ones I'd already heard of -- so I'd missed that.

I asked if they'd considered changing the letters on the word search puzzle they had facing the outside of the window at Haven Comics. They said no. Later, during closing remarks on the contest, they pointed out that they didn't provide red herrings in the clues because we the players provided ourselves plenty of red herrings along the way. I hadn't thought of that, but it's absolutely correct.

After all questions had been answered, they drew tickets for door prizes. One person got a lot of the props, including three Rubik's Cubes, the map plates, The Princess Bride wedding poster, and I forget what else. Walter won a $20 gift certificate for Supper Heroes.

The final announcement of the night was to mark our calendars for September 10. Jumpman's Grand Puzzle II would start then. And it's going to be based on the '90s. I might be in trouble. I was an adult by the '90s, albeit a young one, and not as in touch with pop culture as I had been in the '80s. And my oldest child was born so late in the '90s he doesn't remember them, so we may be at a disadvantage all around.

My loot.
I'm happy to say that as we left, each player got a copy of the props from the game: a choice of Steve on a white or clear background, the three keys and the gold coin. I spoke to Richard about a couple of last things while the boys tried out Fix-It Felix. Then it was back home to our mundane life.

I'm so thankful to Richard, Sherry, and the rest of their crew for putting this together. It's obvious a lot of time and a fair amount of money went into it. I mentioned the movie Midnight Madness way back in the first contest entry proper. Since seeing that movie, I had dreamed of participating in a contest like that, but figured it would never actually happen. Now, not only has it, but I might get to do it again! The most appropriate word is obvious: Awesome!

For the previous entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.

11 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Since finishing the contest, I've been reflecting on what I've learned. Some of it useful in life; some just for the next time, should there be one.

Don't underestimate others

My family would probably disagree, but I did not take this contest as seriously as I could. Particularly the first night at Pints & Pixels. We hung around and played games instead of moving on. Meanwhile, several others hit both The Deep and Supper Heroes that night, letting them hit the First Gate at Honest Coffee first thing the next morning. In the grand scheme, I don't think this hurt us, but continuing like that would have put us further behind. There were natural breaks where we had downtime due to store schedules. Wait for those as a time to slow down.

Be observant

I tend to think of myself as an observant person, but we all get caught up in our assumptions. My whole family missed the sugar cubes in the background of the first clue. We concentrated on the record and didn't stop to think, "Why did they choose Belle for this clue?" We almost derailed ourselves from the start!

Later, on the clue leading to Toy Box Bistro, I again concentrated in the foreground and not the background. I'll never know how long I would have spent figuring out the location because Walter got it so fast.

Two (or more) heads are better than one

I don't know how I would have done without what became my team, particularly my wife. She got several clues before the rest of us.

But it went beyond her. Would we have noticed the sugar cubes without Walter's coworker? Would I have figured out the clear plates that made a map without Walter? I don't know.

I know in the early entries I was irritated at bringing others in. I wanted to do it all myself. But along the way I eventually realized teamwork was the way to go.

Be patient

I was often in a hurry, particularly on weekdays when I had to get back to work. That could have cost me at the Second Gate with the map challenge. I was thinking "I'll take pictures and figure it out later." That would have been extremely difficult. Unlike most, that was a puzzle that had to be figured out there with it in front of you. Thank goodness Walter didn't have to be at work right away then and we stuck around.
Not this...

...but this!

Summary

The fiasco at U. G. White Mercantile, where I initially walked past the clue without seeing it, best exemplifies these points. I was not observant, so I missed the clue. And I was not observant because I was in a hurry and didn't practice patience. And it was only after consulting with another player ahead of me, who I might have initially underestimated, that we went back. And it was as a group that we finally found it. Lessons to keep in mind.

Final Scoreboard

On the last day of the contest, Thursday, April 19, 2018, one final gunter passed the third gate. I'm kind of hoping that since only five of us finished, they'll give a little something to us as prizes for fourth and fifth place, too.
Those that finished

Stay tuned for a final entry on Monday about the Grand Banquet, where all will hopefully be revealed.

For additional entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.