24 August 2013

Busiek on Rom Reference in Avengers Forever

Fresh from Kurt Busiek's Spring.me account:
KurtBusiek responded to joltcity 22 Aug
This is a silly question about something you wrote a long while back, but: I was re-reading AVENGERS FOREVER # 1 and noticed that Rom, Spaceknight was mentioned. Was this something that had to be cleared with Hasbro? Just curious.

No, it wasn't. I was prepared to rewrite that caption if Marvel told me I couldn't even mention Rom's name, but they didn't say anything.

Maybe I should have avoided naming him and they just missed it, maybe naming him as a side-reference like that is just fine. I don't really know. But nobody made a fuss about it.

I'm thinking this isn't the first time a creator has mentioned that they received no problems from editorial when they mentioned Rom, but the other example isn't coming to me.  Nor have I found it with a quick search.

[EDIT: I'm almost positive I asked Peter David about Rom's appearance in Hulk #418 during one of his open question and answer sessions on his site and he replied, but I can't find it now! Can anyone help?]

[EDIT:]
I asked Peter David two years ago about his use of Rom in Hulk #418 and whether anyone in Marvel said anything.  He replied:
Nope. Nobody said anything, probably because I had him in human form rather than as a robot.
(A big "thank you" to Anthony Malena of the Galador mailing list for helping locate that for me!)
[END EDIT]

In general, Marvel editorial doesn't seem to care about mentioning or sometimes even showing Rom as long as it's minor.  Things like the Spaceknights limited series are obviously another matter and a story I need to share sometime.

19 August 2013

The Other ROM Magazines


If you're a Rom fan, you're of course familiar with the above logo from his comic book. But did you know that the Marvel comic series wasn't the only periodical by the name of Rom? In fact, it wasn't even the first!


ROM: Computer Applications for Living was the first. It was a computer magazine that began publishing in 1977, two years before the comic book! However, it only lasted for nine monthly issues, meaning it folded before Marvel began even thinking about publishing theirs. This ROM was absorbed into Creative Computing, which included this ROM logo on the cover for a short time to announce it [source].


The next ROM magazine I know of came out of Canada and was "the magazine that brings the ATARI computer to life!" It started out as a rather amateur production in 1983, but improved quickly. However, it still seems to have lasted only ten issues [source 1, source 2].


The final ROM Magazine is still being published by the Royal Ontario Museum. It began its life as Rotunda in 1968, but switched to the ROM name in 2007 with the logo above [source].


Then this one in 2009.


And most recently this one in 2013. This also happens to be the museum's logo, which celebrates its centennial this year. But our beloved Spaceknight was 200 years old when he came to earth back in 1979, so he wins.

13 August 2013

CD Covers Not on the Web

 As far as Google and Amazon seem to be concerned, the covers for these albums don't exist. Except maybe as a photo of the CD still in the case, not a proper, close up scan. Therefore, as a public service (and since I went to the trouble to scan them for myself), I present them here. Note that I did very little manipulation to make them look good, so if you're picky you might want to tweak them some more. But if you're like me and just want something to stick in iTunes, here you go. Click them to get the full-size images.

Greatest Dance Hits of the '60s (Performed by the Original Stars)

Greatest Love Songs of the '70s & '80s (Performed by the Original Stars)

Turn It Up: The Best of 80's Rock
Spectacular! (Charlie Balogh at the Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ, Organ Stop Pizza)
Berkeley! (Walter Strony at the Wurlitzer)
Happy Holidays from the Alabama Theatre

09 August 2013

DeepSouthCon 50 Report: Day 3

[See Day 1 and Day 2, if you missed them.]

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Because Sunday was Father's Day, I had family obligations in the morning. Luckily, like the day before, the first concert wasn't until 1:00 p.m. Unfortunately, I was still a bit late and had to take a seat between two of Power Salad's songs. (I think it was the first two.)

Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad

Power Salad is actually a writing duo, but Chris Mezzolesta, the only member present, does most of the performing. The concert went well, except for when he got to "The Fire at the Old Diploma Mill." There's a point in the song where it uses several fake names for the diploma mill's staff. Unfortunately, Chris had already performed the song at Friday night's Comedy Music Sampler Concert — See it here! — and his audience was almost entirely the same people, so we didn't chuckle nearly as loudly this second time.

After the concert, I took off the Star Wars tie I'd worn to church for Father's Day and put on a Star Trek: The Next Generation t-shirt. Thus covering both the major Star franchises in one day.

Luke and Chris do the Apothecary Sketch

Then it was to the main room for a performance by sketch comedy group Cirque du So What? The group is actually made up of four FuMP artists: Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad, Devo Spice, Shoebox of Worm Quartet, and the great Luke Ski. As I explained in Day 2's entry, however, Devo was only present for Saturday's festivities. Therefore, either Luke's wife, Sara Trice, or Shoebox filled in for him when needed. (Not all members perform in all sketches.) Despite being on the main stage just before the closing ceremonies, the performance was sadly not well attended.

After that, the closing ceremonies moved in. All the guests of honor got to speak briefly, including Doctor Demento. And then it was over. Well, some of the dementia fans and artists hung around for a little bit, preparing to go. I believe it was during this time Luke and Sara left, giving me a farewell hug. (Sara, not Luke.) I helped Shoebox take his stuff down to Chris Mezzolesta's car. Then, after we returned to the lobby, I got to watch Shoebox encounter Howard Tayler, writer/artist of Schlock Mercenary and the con's artist guest of honor. Shoebox is the inheritor of Partially Clips from originator Rob Balder. They had mutual praise for each others' web comics, which made Shoebox most happy, as witnessed by the notes under the Partially Clips comic posted after DeepSouthCon.

Shoebox, Chris, and Rob Balder

After that, people pretty much dispersed. I did a brief hunt for Doctor Demento for reasons I now forget, but failed to find him. So it was off to home for me. I had a great time, but was so sad to see it end. Hopefully one day I will get to hang with all these fun people again.

24 July 2013

DeepSouthCon 50 Report: Day 2

[See Day 1, if you missed it.]

Day 2: Saturday, June 16, 2012

Curse me for not taking the time to write this entry a year ago when it was still fresh in my mind. I don't recall precisely what I did Saturday morning, but it was probably spending time with family, as the first music track concert wasn't until 1:00 p.m.

Concerts

The DeepSouthCon 50 filk room
The artists performed in a suite on the hotel's second floor. The room was L-shaped around a bedroom. The "stage" was in the bend of the L facing three or four rows of chairs down one end of the L. The other end of the L was separated by a bar where the artists sold their CDs. It was also where most of the artists watched their fellow artists perform, leaving the seats mostly for us regular con-goers and Dr. Demento.

Danny Birt
First up was Danny Birt. Danny was the one artist I wasn't familiar with because at the time he wasn't a member of the FuMP, although he'd posted one song to the Sideshow some time before. Danny does everything live with no pre-recorded music. He also invites audience participation, such as in "The XKCD Song", included in the playlist below.

After Danny's concert, he and Steve Goodie hosted a filk song writing workshop at 2:00 p.m. in the Madison Room. It was quite an interesting pairing, in an Odd Couple kind of way. It was, unfortunately, not very well attended, with six to ten people in the audience. The idea was to have a song written by the group by the end, but that's not how it turned out. We started out with an idea from a father with his son, who was wearing a bug-eyed alien mask, of turning the Crystal Gayle hit "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" into "Don't It Make My Bug Eyes Blue" (or something along those lines).

Danny spoke of the virtues of starting with many ideas and seeing what you end up with, so he wrote that down. Then someone suggested "Don't It Make My Bug Eyes Glow" and the session devolved from there. Steve happily fed odd ideas to Danny, who promptly wrote each one down. Every so often Danny would stop to recap all the ideas up until then. Steve had his guitar with him, so he plunked along as Danny read. What you see in the playlist below was the final reading of the ideas, which was the closest thing to a song we ended up with.

The great Luke Ski
Next up was the great Luke Ski in concert at 3:00 p.m. back at the filk room. He did a nice set of songs, all different from the ones he did at the music sampler the night before, if I remember correctly. I happened to be sitting on the front row, so for me the highlight of the concert was when he sang "Dementia Revolution." The original song features many dementia artists saying/singing "I've joined the Dementia Revolution," so in concert Luke has the audience do those parts. At the first such break, Luke called out my name and held the mike up so I could shout it out!

Dr. Demento

Following that it was back to the Madison Room for Dr. Demento's SF Song Revue at 4:00 p.m., a presentation on science fiction in comedy music. He essentially gave an overview of science fiction-based songs, including a rare, pre-album version of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Yoda". The room was packed with both regular con goers and pretty much all the dementia artists, many of whom were delighted to see the good doctor wearing a FuMP t-shirt.

Steve Goodie

At the conclusion of Dr. Demento's presentation, it was back to the filk room at 5:00 p.m. for Steve Goodie's concert. It was going well until he broke a guitar string. He attempted to switch to the mandolin, but somehow it didn't seem to work quite as well, so I believe he borrowed a guitar from someone else for the rest of his set. Steve is, in fact, a talented musician, and as you can see above, for one song he was playing both guitar and harmonica.

Devo Spice (and Shoebox)

After Steve, there was a break for dinner, then it was back to the filk room at 7:00 p.m. for Devo Spice. Devo had committed to the con before realizing it was the same weekend as a big birthday celebration for his grandmother, so he flew in just for Saturday. As in, he arrived Saturday morning, hung around the con until it ended for the day, then went riding around Huntsville in a limo with the other artists until his plane left Sunday morning. (More on that last bit at the end.) I was glad to finally meet Devo, as just a few months before I'd accepted a job from him as editor of the FuMP newsletter.

Anyway, the highlight of Devo's show was the premiere of a brand new song called "All in My Tights," which was scheduled to the debut on the FuMP a couple days later. You can watch it in the video playlist below. A personal highlight for me was to finally get to see Devo and Shoebox perform "Pac-Man" live. (If you look, you'll see classic video games is one of the main labels of this blog.) And to see the video that goes along with it because I'd been able to see bits and pieces of it in various YouTube videos of past con performances, but not the whole thing. You can see that in the playlist below, too.

After Devo's concert, we had some time to kill before Dr. Demento's presentation in the main hall, so I took the opportunity to get photos with as many of the artists as I could.  Here's a collage of those:


Then all proceeded down to the main hall for "Dr. Demento's Greatest Hits."  The hall was fairly packed as it was obvious many con attendees who'd been doing other things during the concerts wanted to see the good doctor, who was dressed again in his signature tux and top hat. I think I ended up sitting next to Steve Goodie for that one. Many familiar comedy songs were played. When it was over, since he was wearing the tux and hat, I took the opportunity to finally get my photo taken with Dr. Demento.


Logan Awards

Sadly, the main hall emptied after Dr. Demento's program, leaving once again mostly the hard-core Dementoids to watch the presentation of the second annual Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music. The Logan Awards consist of three categories: best original song, best parody, and best video. Nominees are accepted from the public and a panel of judges, which mostly changes each year, narrows it down to a few finalists in each category who are announced beforehand, one of which will be announced as the winner during the awards presentation.

 Danny Birt, who was chairman of the awards for the year, did the introduction and Dr. Demento emceed. Those acts that were available played their songs live. Those that weren't had recordings or videos of their songs played. The live performances were:
  1. "Hulkulele" by Nuclear Bubble Wrap
  2. "I Am the Doctor" by Devo Spice
  3. "Charlie Sheen" by Power Salad
  4. "Snoopy the Dogg" by the great Luke Ski
  5. "Robot Cat" by Devo Spice and the great Luke Ski as a wrap-up tribute to Logan Whitehurst
The winners were "It's Not Just for Gays Any More" by Neil Patrick Harris (not present) for best original song, "The Muppet Show Theme Song" by OK Go (not present) for best video, and "Snoopy the Dogg" by the great Luke Ski for best parody. I was sitting two seats from Luke (with Chris Mezzolesta between us) and Luke's reaction was one of utter shock. Chris gave Luke a friendly hug before Luke went up.


I recorded the entire ceremony, but accidentally stopped recording at one point without realizing it. Therefore I recommend that if you want to see it, you watch it on Power Salad's UStream channel. JayeKitty used Chris Mezzolesta's phone to record it and she was sitting right beside me, making my recording rather redundant, even if I hadn't messed it up at one point. Except for the frame grab above of Luke. She didn't take her camera off the stage after he was announced as the winner, so I'm the only one who captured it.


I am so glad I got to attend a Logan Awards ceremony. This might be the only time it's held anywhere near me, much less the city I'm living in, so it might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. And it was the second one ever! (Yeah, the first would have been better, but beggars can't be choosers.)

More concerts


Shoebox of Worm Quartet

Next we all stayed right where we were for the Worm Quartet concert. Shoebox is a very animated performer, to say the least. He performed his chutney song "The Laundromat of Sin," which features a chorus of screaming. In order to save his voice, Shoebox employed Alchav (of Soggy Potato Chips) as a "surrogate throat" during the song. He screamed quite well. I have a note written down about Shoebox letting me scream into the microphone, but sadly I don't remember what that's about or whether it had to do with that particular song or not.

"Satan!"

Later came "What Your Parents Think All Your Music Sounds Like," which features an audience participation chorus of "Sex! Drugs! Satan! Drugs!" The audience is divided into three groups, each getting one of the words. Shoebox called me out by name as the dividing point between sex (my group) and drugs. As soon as they realized what he was going to sing, Luke Ski and Rob Balder moved to the opposite side of the hall so they could be in the Satan group.  Luke's wife, Sara, and Rob's significant other complained afterwards about them leaving sex for Satan.

Nuclear Bubble Wrap

The final concert of the evening was Nuclear Bubble Wrap. Although they're based in Tennessee, only two members were able to make it, Jace McClain and Eric Zhu. They put on a good show anyway and premiered the video for their song "Sharktopus." It was fun video and cool to be the first public audience to get to see it. The Logan Awards had run over, so their concert ended after midnight. I got to talk to Jace briefly afterwards.

"Party Rob" Balder had looked into doing a concert bus for the con as he has done in the past for MarsCon, which features a strong dementia music track every year. Unfortunately, he couldn't find a suitable bus company in Huntsville, so he rented a limo instead. Most of the dementia acts, Dr. Demento, and a few of the fans got to spend the night riding around town in it. I would have loved to join them if I'd been asked, but sadly Sunday was Father's Day -- who schedules a con on Father's Day weekend? -- so I needed to go home and get some sleep so I could spend some time with my kids before returning to the con in the afternoon.



[On to Day 3.]

23 July 2013

Spaceknights Going to Infinity!

This are afoot in the Avengers by Jonathan Hickman. It was first teased in #15 when Captain Universe and Manifold travel to an unspecified destination ("somewhere in space") that has "knights" as its guardians. This is the place "where the end begins," according to Captain Universe, and we see a large spaceship approaching.

Avengers #15
In #16, we find out the place is Galador and we get a single panel of Spaceknights flying to meet the ship. (I grabbed the "Galador" caption from a previous panel and inserted it here.) Perhaps you recognize Pulsar, Ikon, Firefall, Terminator, and Starshine?

Avengers #16
Or perhaps you don't because while, with the exception of Ikon, they all invoke the memory of those first generation Spaceknights, the designs don't quite match. And Pulsar is no longer orange, but a yellow-green color. (I presume this was done so that he doesn't blend in with Firefall.)

So what's going on here? We, the readers, don't know. Nor are we supposed to, exactly. All I know is that it's been confirmed that the Spaceknights will have some part to play in Marvel's upcoming event, Infinity. And that's all the facts we have, so now begins the grousing. Marvel needs to pick a direction for the Spaceknights and stick to it!

Let's review. After many years of efforts by various creators to bring back Rom in some fashion, Chris Batista finally succeeded in doing something with the Spaceknights limited series in 2000. He had a new generation, including Rom's two sons, take up the mantles of their predecessors. (He also killed Rom, but given the legal problems surrounding him, we'll let it slide for the moment.) Unfortunately, sales of the series were abysmal so the new Spaceknights were stuck in comic book limbo until 2006, when Keith Giffen briefly used them in Annihlation, only to leave their fate up in the air. The following year, Abnett and Lanning used a previously unknown Spaceknight to kick off the events of Annihilation: Conquest, but do nothing else with them.

A few years later, in 2011, Annihilators introduced Ikon, essentially a a female version of Rom. However, where Rom was noble and kind, she is arrogant. We also check in with Brandy Clark, still the leader of Galador and still fretting over the loss of Rom back in 2000. But oddly, no mention of or appearance by her two sons (or the others from the LS). In the end, we're left with Galador in a unique position, its sun merged with the dark sun of Wraithworld, with both worlds orbiting the merged star. Certainly there's story potential there, but it hasn't been taken advantage of yet.

I admit, I wasn't thrilled at first with the new Spaceknights introduced in 2000, but I came to realize they had real potential. We had a new Javelin, son of the original. We had a new Firefall, who apparently somehow shared his existence with the original. And, of course, we had Liberator and Terminator, Rom's sons, and their mother Brandy Clark, our old friend. But since these Spaceknights weren't successful, there's no one at Marvel overseeing the concept. We're left with a bunch of writers who are fans of Rom all wanting to do their take on the Spaceknights and no editor in charge to keep their story coherent.

I really hope Hickman will be respectful of all that's come before, not just the original Rom series. The more fractured the Spaceknights' history becomes, the less likely they'll ever return to greatness. I'm hoping the Spaceknights don't just go to Infinity, but beyond! I'm hoping, but I'm definitely not counting on it.

12 July 2013

DeepSouthCon 50 Report: Day 1

Day 1: Friday, June 15, 2012

I attended DeepSouthCon 50 in Huntsville, Alabama June 15–17, 2012.  While it wasn't my first convention, it was my first serious science fiction convention. However, I was there for the music track. I'm a big fan of The FuMP (The Funny Music Project), which features numerous "dementia artists." (Thanks to Dr. Demento, comedy music has become known as dementia.) Several FuMP artsts were attending the con, a few of which I've been corresponding with in various ways for a while, and this was my first chance to meet them in person.

I requested the day off work well in advance, being uncertain just when the con was going to start. This turned out to be a good thing, because it let me get several last minute things done that day. Registration opened at noon, but I didn't make it until two or three o'clock. After registering, I checked out the art show and the dealer's room, where I knew one local dealer, Science Fiction Collectibles.

First meetings

Afterwards, I went up to the con suite, where I happened to find the dementia fan known as WildCard. He regularly hangs out in the Dementia Radio IRC channel when I hop on during the FuMPcast recordings on Thursday nights. Thankfully, I'd been able to find photos of him on Facebook in advance of the con, or I'd have had no idea what he looks like, because chatting on IRC was the sole interaction we'd had up to then. He was with two other dementia fans known as JayeKitty and PoohBear47. Yes, all these people have real names and I even known them (now), but I'll stick with their noms de dementia for the blog.

The great Luke Ski & Superhorse
I hung out with them, migrating downstairs near a bar.  It was then that the great Luke Ski showed up!  I got to introduce myself and get a photo of him and his Superhorse puppet before he wandered off to post flyers about his concert.  Superhorse is a character from some Cirque du So What sketches, a sketch comedy group made primarily of four of the FuMP musicians.  He's voiced by another member, but Luke (and his wife, Sara) are the puppet makers.

At that point I had to join my family at church for dinner.  They'd scheduled our church's Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the day.  It lasted all day, having the children's families come together for a lasagna dinner in the evening.  Once that was done and my wife was almost at the point where she could leave – she'd been a volunteer as well – I returned to the con.

I arrived just before or just as the opening ceremonies started.  Unfortunately, the room was packed, so I had to stand at the door at first.  I was eventually able to migrate in and finally make it to a seat on the far side of the room.  The ceremonies consisted primarily of Doc Taylor of the Rocket City Rednecks (which you can see on the National Geographic Channel) introducing the various guests, including Dr. Demento.

There was one guest at the con outside the musical ones I was interested in: Jody Lynn Nye, the late Robert Aspirin's co-author for the last few Myth Adventures books.  Unfortunately, the opening ceremonies would be the only time I'd see her during the entire con, and I wasn't able to get her to autograph my copy of Myth-Fortunes.  She had a couple panels, but I missed them both.

Because it was the 50th – or perhaps the 49th, there was some debate – DeepSouth Con, they had cake in the wake of the opening ceremonies.  Dr. Demento was one of the first ones served and I learned an interesting (and irrelevant) factoid:  Dr. Demento is allergic to chocolate.  I was in no hurry and didn't grab a piece of cake until a little later when the main room had cleared out a bit and I could move around easier.

So I wandered back out toward the lobby and discover Luke's wife, Sara Trice, had come over.  It turned out she and Luke weren't staying in the Embassy Suites where the convention was held, but at the Holiday Inn across the street, as were many others.  I had just finished my cake, so I made sure to wipe my face thoroughly of any of the bright blue icing that might be on it.  I then went up to introduce myself as one of those "anal-retentive freaks" from the FuMPcast.  As I smiled broadly, she seemed to pleased to meet me, but informed me my teeth were blue.  D'oh!

Meeting Shoebox

While milling about in the hotel lobby, Shoebox of Worm Quartet and Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad showed up together. I'd made a special plan for introducing myself to Shoebox. You see, just a few months before DeepSouthCon, I'd volunteered for the job of putting together the monthly FuMP newsletter. Each one ends with a bit called "In Other News" and involves Shoebox, because he writes them. So it's my job to remind him to do so each month. Here's an example:
In other news, Shoebox is laminating the electric waterfowl of infinite tomfoolery with the underwater waitress hammer. In bed.
As you can see, to say that these bits are a little weird would be an understatement, so I decided to see if I could out-weird him. (I later had second thoughts, but decided I'd regret it forever if I didn't try.)

The one other thing you need to know about Shoebox, if you don't already, is that he was once profiled on VH-1's Totally Obsessed for his obsession with Pac-Man. As an expression of that obsession, he created a site called the 1st Church of Pac-Man. If you've read this blog, you'll know that I'm also a big fan of the classic video games of the 1980s.

So, when Shoebox shows up, I move away from the dementia music group because I don't want Shoebox to know who I am yet. I  skulk around the lobby, waiting for an opportunity. Finally, I get one. Wearing my vintage Pac-Man necktie and holding a tin of Pac-Man candy, I go up to the Rev. Shoebox (of the aforementioned church), offer him the tin as an offering to the "great round golden one", and ask for a blessing. (I had a whole little spiel I worked out and memorized ahead of time, but sadly as I write this -- nine months later -- I've forgotten the details.) I have no idea what Shoebox was thinking, but he appeared to take it perfectly in stride, handed the things he was holding to his friend, Alchav of Soggy Potato Chips, and asked me something about having faith in Pac-Man, using flowery language equal to what I'd said, placed his hands upon me and blessed me. Then I thanked him and revealed to him just who I was.

The rest of the night

[I started this entry shortly after DeepSouthCon. First I did a brief outline of what I wanted to talk about, then I started writing. I got down to the part about meeting Shoebox and put it aside for what ended up being months. I wanted to write a nice, long narrative report so I could bask in the nostalgia of it later. (In case you hadn't noticed, I'm big on nostalgia.) But now the memories aren't nearly as sharp as they were and, perhaps more importantly, I realize this has gotten far longer than anyone on the Internet is going to read. So henceforth I convert to a bunch of quick memories.]
  • Now that I didn't have to worry about keeping my identity from Shoebox, I introduced myself to Chris Mezzolesta. Needless to say, it wasn't as exciting as what I went through with Shoebox, but Chris is a nice guy and it was a pleasure to meet him.
  • I learned, sadly, that what was in the case Shoebox was carrying was actually Chris' guitar and not Shoebox's new keytar because Shoebox hadn't had time yet to learn how to play it. The keytar was a stretch goal on Shoebox's Kickstarter campaign to publish his new CD, to which I'd contributed.  I'd joked on the FuMPcast that my donation had bought up to 2% of the instrument and Shoebox responded that the lower C# was mine. I'd wanted a quick video of him playing that note for me.

Comedy Music Sampler Concert

  • The main attraction of the night was the comedy variety show featuring Chris Mezzolesta (Power Salad), Seamonkey, Shoebox (Worm Quartet), Steve Goodie, Danny Birt, and the great Luke Ski.
  • I believe it was during this concert that I first met Mad Mike and his wife.
  • One surreal bit was having Dr. Demento, dressed casually in a t-shirt and not his signature tux and top hat, sit next to me for the concert. On the other side of him was former comedy musician Rob Balder.
  • Seamonkey asked if anyone in the audience was Catholic, warned us the song was offensive, and then performed "Altarboy." (A rather obscene song about a priest and an altar boy.)
  • After he was done, one guy in the audience said that wasn't offensive enough. He borrowed a guitar and proceeded to sing a parody of "Puff the Magic Dragon" with the same theme as "Altarboy". Seamonkey bowed to him at the end.
  • Danny Birt noted that everyone in the audience seemed to be familiar with the song's being sung, so he  -- assuming we'd also know Jonathan Coultan -- did a Coultan parody.
Danny Birt
The great Luke Ski performing "Grease Wars"

Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad

Seamonkey

Shoebox of Worm Quartet

Steve Goodie
Here's the songs I recorded during the concert as a single playlist.

The Boobles concert

Juan Melon (Seamonkey) of the Boobles
The final concert of the night was The Boobles.  The Boobles is a project of Seamonkey's.  He's raising money for breast cancer research by recording breast-themed parodies of Beatles' songs.  Although the song's have been recorded with many other artists, the concert was mainly him with pre-recorded backing tracks.
  • At the end of "I Want to See Your Cans", Danny Birt came up and stuffed a dollar in Seamonkey's pants. Seamonkey revealed the next day that he forgot about it until he undressed back in his hotel room when it fell out of his pants.
  • Seamonkey had Shoebox perform "Double D's" during the concert. Since Seamonkey wasn't singing, he wore his boob mask and swayed along beside Shoebox. At one point he discovered he could suck in the mask and began doing so rhythmically, which freaked out Shoebox when he noticed it. Luckily for you, I caught that bit on video. (It starts at the 1:45 mark, but watch the whole thing.)

Thus ended the first day of the con, which was actually sometime well after midnight on Saturday.

[On to Day 2, or even Day 3, if you want.]

12 June 2013

Remembering CVG 101 and Classic Gamer Magazine

I no longer remember precisely how I got started writing for Classic Gamer Magazine. I seem to be missing my first e-mails on it and, unfortunately, I'm finding Google Groups completely unhelpful at the moment. But I believe the sequence of events was probably something like this. Chris "Cav" Cavanaugh published the first issue as a fanzine in 1998. It was a success, so he decided to relaunch it as a for-profit venture and put out the call for writers on Usenet. I'd quit my on-the-side job at Suite 101 a year before and was closing on my son's first birthday, so was beginning to feel like I had a handle on my new life with child. Also CGM was planning a bi-monthly schedule, giving me twice as long to write as I'd had on Suite 101's monthly schedule. Therefore, I volunteered.

I was relieved at the warm welcome Cav gave me. Reviewing the earliest e-mail I have from him, it looks like I probably referenced Suite 101 and he was not only familiar with my articles for them, but said he enjoyed them a lot. I quickly proposed a column called CVG 101 (for "classic video games") as a continuation of what I'd done at Suite 101 and he agreed. He introduced me to my fellow writers a few weeks later.
Our second item up for bid is: Lee Seitz.  Lee also knows his stuff.  He runs a great website at http://home.hiwaay.net/~lkseitz/cvg/nexus/ or better known as the "Classic Videogame Nexus" [sic].  His website is a great resource for information and I'm very thankful for having him along for the ride.
In addition to my column, I also worked with Cav on a classic video game newswire. My memories of this are fuzzy at best. I think we probably just agreed to make each other aware of news stories for our respective sites. I know I was running news on the Classic Video Games Nexus.

Looking through my old e-mails, it appears I gave feedback to all of Cav's e-mails about the progress on the latest issue or the magazine in general. I didn't mind giving my opinions, but tried to do it nicely and with the full understanding that I wasn't the one in charge. Which is good, because some of my suggestions were not the way the magazine went.

In addition to my CVG 101 column, I also conducted a couple interviews. They were both things I proposed to Cav and he thought were, indeed, good ideas. The (Buckner and) Garcia interview in #2 was the only time I got an article mentioned on the cover because you want news on the cover, not a recurring feature for newbies. Sadly, I never followed through on my proposed interview with former Atari programmer Dennis Harper. I still kick myself about that.

Things went okay. I say okay not because of any bad experiences -- Cav was incredibly nice and understanding -- but because I had a bad tendency to run up against and sometimes a bit past the deadlines. This was entirely my own fault. But when I did miss a deadline, I was typically given a bit of extra time because my work generally required little editing. I think part of the reason he was so understanding is that Cav had a tendency to blow his own deadlines, which is understandable since creating an entire magazine was, as best I know, an entirely new thing to him.

For #3, I wound up lifting a great deal of text from an article I'd written for Suite 101, with Cav's permission. I took the article I wrote on Sears labels and reworked it as an article on cartridge label variations with special emphasis on Sears labels.

I finally got to meet Cav at Classic Gaming Expo 2000. I also met his significant other (and later, wife) Sarah Thomas. It was a pleasure hanging out with both of them. It was also nice to hear Sarah, who was the one primarily responsible for editing all the submissions, say to me the same thing Cav had about my articles needing little in the way of editing.

Chris Cavanaugh and Sarah Thomas
I should point out that the magazine turned out not to be bi-monthly, but quarterly. After #4 was finished, Cav struck a deal with Tower Records to distribute the magazine on their newsstands! Unfortunately for me, there were no Tower Records stores in Alabama, so I didn't get the thrill of seeing a magazine with something I'd written on the racks. I suspect each store only got a handful of issues, as the one time I did find a Tower Records on a trip to Nashville, CGM was nowhere to be found.

I really blew things on my article for #6. That was when, because I hadn't finished reading a previous issue, I wrote an article very similar to one Leonard Herman had written for #4. Oops! Luckily, Cav gave me time to write another article instead. I've included that never-before-published article here, just for completeness.

I submitted an article for the seventh issue of CGM, but before the issue was published, Cav had to fold the magazine. Despite a major investment at the beginning, the magazine had continued to lose money due to lack of advertisers, so he had no choice. He later tried reviving it as a free, PDF-only publication, but only got two issues out before folding again. My article intended for #7 was included in Volume 2, #1 in 2004. But by then I had two kids and little spare time, so I was unable to contribute any more articles.

Cav has kept the Classic Gamer Magazine name around. He published a single issue of Volume 3, again as a free PDF, in 2010. He also still owns the www.classicgamer.com domain, although as I write this he's been having problems with his host and the site is down. However, he also runs an active Facebook page for it. And you can find a complete PDF archive of CGM at Digital Press. But for my own ego trip, here the articles I wrote for the magazine, which I'm proud to have been a part of.


29 May 2013

Revenge on Wikipedia: Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves

Back around early 2009, I think, I re-read my collection of Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves comics, which inspired me to create a Wikipedia page for the series.  It seemed a far better thing to do than to stick up yet another web page that few would see and I would then proceed to not update.  (Not that I'd expect much in the way of updates.)

Normally I visit my Wikipedia watchlist weekly, but in May 2013 I got behind.  When I finally got around to checking near the end of the month, I discovered all my work on the article had been deleted by an editor who decided the series wasn't noteworthy enough. If there was any notice of impending deletion, I missed it.  So much for "keep[ing] useful information ... available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity" [http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Mission_statement].

Was the article only of interest to a small group of people? Sure, but it was also the only non-sales link on the first page of Google search results for the topic! In fact, it may have been one of the only web pages to actually give anything beyond bare-bones information on the series. And since it wasn't of wide interest, exactly how much was it costing Wikipedia to leave that article up? I'd guess very, very little. Just because something is not significant does not mean it's not worth preserving.

Don't get me wrong, I like Wikipedia; I use Wikipedia often.  But I think it has some problems.  In this case, the ease of deleting work because one person decided it's wasn't notable enough.

I stick to the fringe of Wikipedia and don't get hung up on its internal politics.  And I'm not going to start now.  I'm just going to re-publish the info and hope people who want to can find it.  I recovered the October 6, 2011 version of the article thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. (How appropriate.) The above text is copyright by me, but the text in this article below this point is attributable to Lee K. Seitz under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, since Wikipedia doesn't want to claim it.

Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves

Publication information
PublisherComics Interview
ScheduleBi-monthly
Format(vol. 1) One-shot
(vol. 2) Ongoing
Genrecomic science fiction
Publication date(vol. 1) August 1986
(vol. 2) February 1987–December 1988
Number of issues(vol. 2) 12
Creative team
WriterHenry Vogel
PencillerMark Propst
CreatorsMark Propst
Henry Vogel
David Anthony Kraft
EditorDavid Anthony Kraft

Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves, abbreviated as X-Thieves, was a comic book created by Mark Propst, Henry Vogel, and David Anthony Kraft and published by Comics Interview. It chronicled the adventures of two thieves, Fred and Bianca, in a futuristic, science fiction setting while often breaking the fourth wall.

Publishing history

Mark Probst and Henry Vogel were waiting to discuss future plans for the ongoing series Southern Knights with David Anthony Kraft in his office. Kraft was tied up on the phone, so Vogel was flipping through Probst's portfolio when he came across a drawing of the two characters who would become the X-Thieves. Vogel asked Probst about their back story, but Probst didn't have one as he'd just drawn them to show off his versatility. Vogel decided the two were high-class art thieves and he and Probst began exchanging ideas. Once Kraft finished his business, he joined in and the three ultimately became co-creators.

The three had been discussing the current trend to name independent comics to parody the name of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so Vogel initially called them the "Old-Age Extraterrestrial Marsupial Thieves." As the concepts around the two characters took shape, they eventually were renamed to their final title. Since the title was so long, X-Thieves was decided on as the abbreviated version, an obvious play on Marvel's X-Men, which was one of the top-selling comic book titles at the time. This abbreviated title was used on the cover of later issues.

The original idea was to have Fred and Bianca guest star in an issue of Southern Knights, but Kraft said they were so good they should have their own series. Vogel and Probst quickly agreed. To test the waters, a one-shot "micro series" was published first, which introduced the two thieves and most of their recurring foils. Retailers ordered 36,000 copies1, so a bi-monthly, ongoing series was announced within the one-shot. The Southern Knights then became the guest stars in the first issue of the on-going series. This series lasted a total of twelve issues. Issue #13 was to feature the wedding of the two characters, but it was never published.

Protagonists

  • Pansafredicopacog, nicknamed Fred, is a male extraterrestrial known as a s'bwat. He resembles a white, humanoid kangaroo but with a tall, white mane and requires special goggles to see in most environments. Little has been revealed of his origins, but his father is a judge.
  • Bianca Arden is a human woman and expert lockpicker. Her origins are also largely unknown, although she did attend and graduate from thief school.
  • The Fredmobile is their vehicle, a Tardis 40 Space Yacht. Named in homage to the vehicle flown by The Doctor in Doctor Who, it shares the abilities of being larger inside than out and traveling through space and time (via Way-Back Machine, an homage to Peabody's Improbable History from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show). It also has the ability to transform into virtually any vehicle, tool, or weapon. Bianca and most others call it the Fredmobile, but Fred himself hates the name and refuses to use it most of the time. He has not come up with a better name, however, so he simply calls it "the car."

Recurring characters

Most of the recurring characters act as somewhat incompetent foils to the two thieves.
  • Officer Quinzal Pinback of Interstellar Police (Interpol) is a humanoid male with four arms. He has a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.
  • Clint the Repo Man is a male alien of an unnamed race who continually attempts to repossess the Fredmobile, as the thieves took it without paying for it.
  • An unnamed agent of the Interstellar Revenue Service (IRS), who is a male alien of another unnamed race in pursuit of the thieves to collect on unpaid taxes. He is the most competent of Fred and Bianca's enemies, but they continue to escape from or otherwise thwart him.
  • The Continuity Inquisition is an organization designed to keep history on track. Under their regulations, any being traveling through time within its own lifetime is to be executed. Because of this, Fred and Bianca usually limit their time travel to their distant past, which includes the late 20th century.

Reprints and collected editions

  • Fred and Bianca Valentine's Day Special (reprints vol. 2, #5)
  • Fred and Bianca Mother's Day Special (reprints vol. 2, #3)
  • X-Thieves Graphic Album #1 (reprints vol. 1, #1 and vol. 2, #1-2)
  • X-Thieves Graphic Album #2 (reprints vol. 2, #3-5)
  • X-Thieves Graphic Album #3 (reprints vol. 2, #6-8)
  • X-Thieves Graphic Album #4 (reprints vol. 2, #9-10)

Notes

  1. Vogel, Henry (February 1987), "'X-Thieves' X-tra", Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves 2 (1): inside front cover
Categories: American comics titles | One-shot comic titles | Humor comics | Science fiction comics | 1986 comic debuts

26 April 2013

My Time as Suite 101's Classic Home Video Games Editor

In mid-1996, I was contacted by Julie Bradshaw to become an "editor" for a new web site called Suite 101. They were seeking people for a variety of topics who would maintain a top 5 list of sites related to the topic and write a weekly article about it. I wasn't sure if I could commit to writing one article a week, so I hemmed and hawed with myself. Months of indecisiveness paid off when they announced the creation of part-time editors. I then quickly put in my application as the "classic home video games" editor. I figured I could handle one article a month. And I did…until my wife got pregnant. I managed to continue my duties for a time, but finally I missed an entire month. I realized I had to resign, perhaps just temporarily, so I did so in February 1998.

In case you haven't guessed, I never went back. It's all rather fuzzy now, but a review of my e-mails helped refresh my memory a bit. I never got much in the way of feedback from Suite 101 users, although the management told me at one point my topic ranked "around 55 out of 205 topics," putting me just out of the top 25%.  I enjoyed the writing and later wrote a regular column for Classic Gamer Magazine, but that's a story for another time. A little extra cash never hurts, either.

As I said above, editors also picked a "top 5" sites related to their topic.  I was running the Classic Video Games Nexus at the time, so the hard part wasn't finding five sites, but figuring out which five to link to.  I no longer have records of that, but I seem to remember including the Nexus as one of the links.  Nobody ever said I had to be completely unbiased.

When I was involved, Suite 101 was owned by i5ive communications inc., a Canadian company. (Yes, they used the name in all lower case.) That's pronounced "I-five" (or "eye five"). I don't know what's happened with it since I left, but Suite 101 still exists today with no mention of that company. (i5ive's old domain now belongs to i5ive Affordable Online Insurance.) While my work for i5ive was work for hire, under the terms of my contract I was free to reproduce the editorials on my own web site, so I'm going to assume that also applies to my blog, a concept that didn't exist back then. Furthermore, Suite 101 removed all the articles I wrote some time after I resigned. That kept stale topics from polluting the ones that were still updated regularly. So given the changes that have happened in the 15 years since I wrote these, I doubt Suite 101 has any record of me working for them any more anyway. Here, then, are the 16 articles I wrote for Suite 101 on Classic Home Video Games.

23 April 2013

Robb Waters Does It Again

Once again, Robb Waters has done Rom art.  This time it's a portrait of the action figure.  It's part of a series of portraits of various superheroes and science fiction characters.  And it's actually from 2011, but I'm just now discovering it.


If you missed it, here are the two previous Robb Waters works featured on the blog.