Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dared to read Daredevil Yellow

Daredevil Yellow

Daredevil Yellow is Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s retelling of Daredevil’s origins. In an effort to deal with the loss of Karen Page, Matt writes a letter to her as a way of dealing with his feelings. Through these letters, we see his past.

It was an entertaining story as a Daredevil fan, but I’m not sure it would work as a good introduction to the hero for people who weren’t familiar with him already. Then again, maybe an origin story isn’t always written for newcomers. Can’t a fan enjoy a retelling of an origin?

The story centers on Karen Page. In addition, it covers the death of Matt’s father, Battling Jack Murdock, fairly well and gives a new (to me at least) reason for his costume being yellow; he made it out of his father’s robe. Loeb also gives motivation for Matt changing his costume to red based on feedback from Karen. That’s not exactly how I remember it from issue seven in which he mentions in passing redesigning his costume to make it “more comfortable” and “more distinctive.” User Aristocles on Answerbag wrote that the artist, Wally Wood, didn’t want the Man Without Fear to wear yellow because it’s the color of fear. Is it true? I don’t know, and I’m not researching. It sounds plausible though.

The art style in Daredevil Yellow is a bit odd. It’s a bit deformed or grotesque. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it’s just skewed. Usually this just seems like a stylistic choice, and it looks good on some characters. Matt looked good usually, for example. However, Karen looks like some sort of demon at times! I didn’t care for her look in most panels.

Daredevil Yellow was entertaining but not superb. It worked at retelling parts of Matt’s origins but only parts. If you’re new to Daredevil, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Man of Steel

Note: There aren’t really any huge plot twists to spoil in the movie, but I’ll be talking about the plot!

I had a good time watching Man of Steel last week, but it wasn’t up to the quality of some other superhero movies. I enjoyed the Dark Knight trilogy and films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (except Hulk) more. My exposure to Superman is limited primarily to the first season of Smallville, Superman for all Seasons, and the novel It’s Superman!

First, there were many things I did like. Seeing Krypton was very interesting, and I’d love to see more of it in the future. I haven’t read much Superman, but I’m under the impression that not much is shown of Krypton in general. Just like my feelings about Asgard in Thor, I’d like to see a movie solely focused on Krypton.

I also enjoyed seeing Clark Kent come to terms with his powers and who he is. His inner-conflict and relationships to other people were far more interesting that his battles. Everyone expects superhero stories to be full of fighting and action, and Man of Steel delivers that. However, they seem to go for too long. There are so many related conflicts back-to-back that it feels like a cliche RPG. After the last stage, you fight the boss, but then you fight the true boss. And then you fight the final form and then the hyper-final form. It wasn’t exactly like there, and there aren’t any huge twists; however there are a string of conflicts.

My biggest problem with Man of Steel is that of Clark Kent’s secret identity. Multiple people know that Clark Kent is Superman and not people who are particularly close to him either. How could he keep his identity as Superman a secret? In addition, and here’s a bit of a spoiler, the military uses the ship in which he came to Earth near the end of the movie yet they don’t know who Superman is. How did they go to his house and pick it up while not knowing his identity? It seems silly.

I’d also like to see him use his powers more. He uses x-ray vision and heightened senses as a child when he’s coming to terms with his powers, but he doesn’t use them during fights. He rarely even uses the heat vision. In fact, the abilities he uses in combat are limited to his super-strength, his ability to fly, and his invulnerability. It appears Superman deals with threats by throwing himself at them.

I saw Man of Steel in 3D, although that was only because the 2D showing was a half hour later in the day. The film used 3D very well. It was never too “in-my-face,” and I use that term both figuratively and literally. It was subtle yet useful. Given that tickets for 3D films cost $4 more at the theater I attended, two tickets in 3D were $22 rather than the $14 they would have been in 2D. That’s not insignificant. The glasses are always a little annoying, sitting low on my nose in order to be worn with normal glasses, but I was glad they came in plastic and weren’t scratched.

Despite some drawbacks, I enjoyed the movie. I’d watch a sequel and would particularly like to see a DC Cinematic Universe like Marvel’s. Given how this movie already goes through his origin story and made me excited about Superman, I think I should go watch Smallville instead of waiting for another movie!

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Having recently finished Journey to the Center of the Earth, I can say that it’s fairly entertaining once the characters get somewhere interesting! For the first section of the book, which felt like roughly a third of it, the explorers were simply traveling to the point at which they were going to begin their descent into the Earth. Following that section, they begin their descent through an inactive volcano, hiking down tunnels. This part as well drags for quite some time. Truly it’s only the final third or so of the book that deals with interesting discoveries, and once I reached that part, the rate at which I read greatly increased.

There’s something about an underground world that seems strangely exciting. We see it over and over in literature and other media. Reading this novel continually made me want to play Dungeons & Dragons. I can’t say exactly why, because I’ve never played in a campaign that featured much underground exploration.

The choice of narrator in the novel is particularly useful in framing the story in a context that’s sympathetic to the reader. While Axel’s uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, continually believes in the validity of their journey and never waivers, Axel questions it constantly. He believes in the accepted science and doesn’t think they’ll succeed. There are times that he flips his feelings and gets excited, but he’s still the voice of the current knowledge and status quo.

It took me a while to finish the novel, but I’m glad I did. I probably won’t be reading more Jules Verne immediately, but I’d be happy to read some of his other novels in the future.

A wild Jackie appears!

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Did I mention that Jackie visited recently? I did briefly when I talked about Puppet Mayhem, but now I have this photo to share! This, my friends, is a double-piggyback ride. It was gem’s idea, so don’t yell at us for abusing her.

It was a lot of fun hanging out with her! It made me nostalgic for the time spent in college. Oh well. Things change. She was only around for a day, but I think we made the most of it. Her sister graduated, so Jackie was in town for the graduation. Afterward, she hung out with us and stayed at gem’s house before flying home in the morning.

Thanks for visiting, Jackie!

Duffy boating and bar hopping

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On Saturday we continued celebrating Darnell and Alex’s return to California and Lorena’s imminent three-month trip to Alaska by going on a duffy boat and then out for drinks in Newport! For most of the time that we were on the water, Jon piloted the boat, but some of us took turns as well. We had drinks, cheese, crackers, fruits, and good conversation!

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gem made a great boat captain too of course!

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Gracie may have freaked out a little when she was in charge. Just a little though. Maybe.

duffy boat

Here I am hard at work with Jon and Devin helping.

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Darnell was willing to pose, but I guess Alex was too busy looking over there to even care.

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Here’s another great shot of Darnell!

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We even had a buddy come join us on the duffy. He hung out for quite some time.

After our time with the boat came to an end, we went out for drinks and dinner. We started with a drink at A Restaurant. It was a quiet, warm-feeling place. It was a nice place to talk, but the prices were a little high. After that we headed to the Rusty Pelican, where we stayed for a while. (The calamari was excellent!) When the hunger hit hard, we walked to DivBar Smokehouse Barbecue, where I had the brisket with baked beans. Delicious.

After dinner we headed back to the Rusty Pelican to enjoy some live music. By the time I was getting pretty tired. I had a glass of Moscato and read Journey to the Center of the Earth while listening to the music. Is that rude? Yeah, it’s probably rude, but honestly I enjoy reading while listening to live music. The day was packed with fun with great people, but I’ll admit, I was pretty tired that evening!

A boxing penguin who loves a high school girl: Tuxedo Gin

Tuxedo Gin

How could you go wrong with a manga about a boxing penguin who’s in love with a high school girl? You can’t of course. I’m pretty sure I picked up Tuxedo Gin Vol. 1 years ago at Anime Expo. I bought a bunch of volumes 1 of things so I could try different mangas. My logic was a little peculiar I suppose. However, I just got around to reading this.

Ginji, a young man just breaking into professional boxing meets a girl, Minako, falls in love with her, and then gets killed – a tale as old as time. A guardian angel gives him a chance to be put back into his body, but he has to first live through a reincarnation as a penguin, Gin, and he can’t try to kill himself as a penguin either. Luckily for him, he winds up with Minako, and she loves penguins.

From there it pans out like you’d expect if you read manga or watch anime: there are some awkward scenes as she reveals herself in front of the Gin. Better yet, Gin puts his boxing skills to the test as a penguin. It’s funny in a stereotypical way, although usually in this type of story there’s the lingering chance that the girl will reciprocate feelings. That can’t really happen with Gin a penguin. In addition, some of the panels are a little hard to understand graphically. I’ll be reading a little more I think but won’t make it a priority.

The difficulties of giving away tickets to Man of Steel

Man of Steel Tickets

I received tickets to Man of Steel because of a partnership with Norton for last Wednesday night, two days before the movie was actually was released. I had plans that night, but I figured that they’d be easy to give away, right? Not so much.

My friends who really love Superman wouldn’t be off work in time. My co-worker whose birthday was the same day had plans despite wanting to see it. My step-dad didn’t want them with my mom out of town. In all, I asked ten people (counting a couple as one) before I found someone who wanted them. It was short notice, which is what made it difficult. I know a lot of people would have been interested if I had received the tickets and started looking earlier.

Eventually I found that my friend Mario wanted tickets. Giving them to him would ensure they get used, make me a good friend, and get me some cred with my DM, right? He took them, but as it turns out, he couldn’t go. However, everything ends well. His wife and daughter took advantage of them! I guess she’s a big fan of Superman, so I’m glad she enjoyed the tickets. Mario said that she said there were aspects of the movie that disappointed her, but I’m not sure what those are. That’s too bad, but it also seems normal given that she’s a fan.

Jonah’s birthday, seeing Shaun, and Father’s Day

Jonah's cake

Today we went to a birthday party for gem’s newphew, Jonah. It was a lot of fun, but as usual at her family parties, I ate way too much. Cooking skill must run in the family!

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We also got to play with this awesome dog. I believe her name was Nala. At one point she got in the house, and when they tried to get her to leave, she flattened out and refused to budge. Adorable.

After the party I stopped by Shaun’s place. He’s moving to Australia soon and was giving away some of this belongings. He gave me some dumbbells and the collector’s edition of The Burning Crusade. We stayed for a while and chatted, which was nice since I hadn’t seen him in a while. It takes a lot of courage and initiative to make such a big life-changing choice like moving to a new country. I hope it works out well for him!

After Shaun’s it was off to my dad’s house. He seems to be doing well, and I’m glad I got to talk to him on Father’s Day. We almost always argue about huge personal philosophies, politics, and the economy, but it’s nice that he gives me a point of view that’s often hard to see. On the way back to the car, I met a woman who asked for help a box out of her truck. She and another woman had purchased a new shed and needed to carry into the backyard. I helped them get it moved and talked for a bit. They were both very nice and offered me a ride if I needed and money for my help, both of which I declined. I didn’t want to take their money, and I didn’t actually need the ride.

Although I feel exhausted right now for some reason, it was a very nice day.

Puppet Mayhem goes to hell

Puppet Mayhem goes to hell

Last night was the last Puppet Mayhem for a while. The gang went to hell to travel through the circles of hell to rescue their friends. We took our friend Jackie to the show with us, and I think she enjoyed it. I know I had a lot of fun.

Puppet Mayhem goes to hell

My favorite one-liner from the show was, and I’m paraphrasing from memory, “your mama’s like a waffle iron, in the mornings I fill her with my batter.” Now what disgusting human being puppet would say that? One that wouldn’t normally talk like that, actually.

After the show I saw that Puppet Mayhem was selling shirts! Of course, I had to buy one. Good times!

Daredevil by Waid volume 4 brings headless DD and more

The fourth trade collection of Waid’s Daredevil got rather weird in parts despite making some interesting progress. When Foggy discovers something shocking that Matt’s done, he dissolves their partnership. However, Matt doesn’t remember doing it. It gets weirder from there as his sanity slowly seems to unravel.

While I’d expect some weird things to be happening if Matt’s indeed going crazy, there are also some weird inclusions in these issues. For one, Stilt Man is back. In the earlier days of Marvel, there were a lot of heroes and villains with weird powers. Hydraulic stilts is one of those, and it seems lame to reintroduce Stilt Man. However, at least Daredevil sort of comes to my same conclusion. There’s also an enemy that separates heads from bodies, which seemed odd to me.

By the end of the collection, we do learn what’s happening with Matt’s sanity, but there are still some escalated plot threads. His relationship with Foggy is no where near fixed, his romantic relationship is shaky, and there’s an interesting villain out to get him named Coyote. It was compelling despite being odd in places.

Father Darham’s Orphans: Finishing White Plume Mountain

After retrieving Blackrazor, we regrouped outside. Marle the thief, Diedrich, and Stale entered with us this time. Gweneesh, Zarlon, Grogg, and Lichen were there as well of course. We came across a number of interesting encounters, including a black ooze monster with a cursed ring that hurt Grog. Eventually our path opened into a large cavern. Between us and the other side was a huge pit filled with lava at the bottom and circular, wooden platforms suspended by chains. The group slowly made our way across. Some of us jumped from platform to platform while others flew across or were carried across. Stale carried me using his new ring that granted him flying. What we didn’t realize at first were that geysers erupted periodically in this room, causing us quite a few injuries. Marle in particular was hurt and knocked unconscious, but Lichen and Deidrich healed her. Once we made it across, we found a pitch black room that light wouldn’t penetrate that contained some sort of evil enemy that attacked us. We tried to attack it, and one person even made fun of Marle for using a little dagger, saying “you can’t hurt anything with that butter knife.” We managed to dispel the darkness; in place of an enemy, there was a cloud of a sort of gas that flew out of the room and away. Presumably it was a vampire. We never saw him again, but we did find the hammer, Whelm, in this room.

We backtracked and went down the third corridor. There were multiple heavy, metal doors that opened inward and were larger than the doorways. It seemed like they were designed so that pressure couldn’t open them the other way. After we went through these doors, we found ourselves in what we later realized was a giant bubble under boiling water. There was a huge crab-like beast in the room. While we discussed what to do, Stale threw three darts at it. With his tremendous strength, he hurt it quite badly. Unfortunately, he also punctured the room, causing boiling water to flow into the room. Now we realized that the doors’ purpose was to keep water from flowing out of the room and back into the rest of the complex. Without any more time to plan, the rest of us rushed in to attack. Marle, remembering the comment her “butter knife,” attacked with her dagger. The crab died. In the back of the room, we found Wave. We quickly left the room before the flood got any worse.

We made it back to town, where we recovered from our wounds, sold some treasure, and purchased newer equipment. It looks like we successfully retrieved the three artifacts!

– Kyros

This was a great module, and I had a fun time playing first edition. I have to say, there was a lot more variety to the encounters compared to that with which I’m familiar. Was that just this module or a facet of first edition? I guess I’ll see.

Dream: Tony Stark

I had a dream that I was at someone’s house talking to a person whom I knew but who didn’t know me. I also talked to his dog, Einstein. I knew him because I had already experienced this day but was repeating it. For some reason, this didn’t alarm me.

I was convincing him that we had to join forces because I was actually Iron Man. I told him that I was Tony Stark, but even in the dream, I think Tony Stark was more character than real person.

Then I went to the park, and I think I was controlling someone else like a video game.

I didn’t get to actually be in an Iron Man suit or do anything super cool unfortunately, but it was still an odd dream. I guess it was Iron Man x Back to the Future x Groundhog Day x Gamer. That’d be a great movie, by the way.

Father Darham’s Orphans: Exploring White Plume Mountain

I caught up with some of Father Darham’s other orphans recently – Gweneesh the black-winged human magic user and cat, Thor; Zarlon the human magic user; Lichen the human druid and his staff/snake, Clyde; and Grog the half-orc, or half-human as he prefers, fighter/thief. Of course, I knew them from the orphanage, but I hadn’t seen them in a while. They’ve really changed since I knew them. I suppose the most shocking was Gweneesh’s wings, but she didn’t seem to want to talk about them.

When I joined them, I didn’t have much. I was wearing my simple clothing under plate armor with a shield, bastard sword, and short bow. Of course, I had a backpack with a few small items such as food and water as well. I told them how I was now going by Kyros Beastrunner after outrunning that beast, but they seemed to find it amusing and not believe me! They did, however, have a trade for me. They allowed me to exchange my plate armor and bastard sword for magically enhanced versions of each. I believe powerful weapon and armor enchanters use the shorthand “+1” for each of these.

My companions tracked the weapons to a volcano. After we found a cave leading inside, I followed my friends into the tunnel. Grog found a trapdoor covered in sludge, and he managed to open it with the help of Lichen. Through the trapdoor we discovered a spiral staircase leading us into a watery tunnel. Now I knew this was a bad idea, but my companions wouldn’t listen to me so we proceeded. A few turns later, I slipped and went sliding forward. It was horrible! I told

I reluctantly trudged into the mucky water behind them. Eventually we reached a beast with a cat’s body and human woman’s torso and head. She required us to answer a riddle before we could proceed, and we did it without a problem. The path forked into three ways, and we chose the left one.

We came across a hallway that we couldn’t cross without all of our metal heating to the point that it burned us. We came with an idea; we could put all of our metal belongings in Grog’s Bag of Holding. However, Gweneesh seemed very against it. She was incredibly defensive about leaving her dagger. Something is very strange about it. Grog and Lichen proceeded down the hallway as a test with all their metal in the bag. They entered a large room filled with a vast number of ghouls. Being unable to get ready for battle in time, they ran back down the hallway. When they rejoined us, Gweneesh cast a fireball down the hallway. The explosion stopped mere feet from us. Lichen used a spell to chill our metal, and the five us ran down the hallway as fast as we could. Our belongings began to get hot, but we made it without being harmed. With only the charred remains of the ghouls waiting for us, we continued.

Next we found a very strange room. It was a long room with a door on each side. A few feet in front of each door was a pit spanning the width of the room filled with razors. We experimented and found that we couldn’t fly in the room at all, and worse yet, the ground had no friction! Eventually we discovered that there was friction on the walls of the pit. Using a couple ropes and magical Rope of Climbing, Grog managed to reach the pit, stab the wall with his dagger, and use the Bag of Climbing to continue. Once ropes were set across the whole room, we were able to cross.

Of course, what do you think the next room contained? Something that would call for my unique experience with tracking animals so I could show my friends how heroic I’ve become? No. More water. Levitating tubes of water and boats. Resigned to my fate, I climbed into one two-seat boat with Gweneesh, and the five of us set sail through the flying waterway.

By the time Geneesh and I reached the next room, our friends were already in combat! I jumped out, ready to help. Gweneesh tried to help but never got out of her boat, so she actually continued sailing around. Some humans were attacking us, but I don’t know why. Most were weak, but one was fairly strong. I engaged him in melee combat, and he tried to jump away. I realized he must be using some sort of magic, because no normal person could jump like that. However, we managed to kill him. Examining his body, we found magical boots that Zarlon realized enhanced jumping, magical plate armor even more powerful than mine, a magical longsword and a magical shield. The group decided to let me have the plate armor and longsword for which  I was quite grateful.

The next chamber we discovered was huge and quite odd. It must have been planned by some sort of sadistic, magical zookeeper. The room was shaped like an inverted ziggurat. We could walk in a circle around the chamber on the top level. The next level was some sort of aquarium with aggressive fish of some sort. Next was a level of scorpions. After that was a level of aquatic lions. On the bottom were three manticores guarding a door.

Lichen transformed into a bird and flew down to the bottom level. Almost instantly the manticores began launching spikes at him, and he looked seriously hurt. I began notching an arrow in an attempt to provide what help I could from the top level. Meanwhile Zarlon began to take off his new boots so he could give them to me, hopefully enabling me to jump down. I rushed to help my friends, not paying attention to what I was doing, and ended up making things worse. Not only did Gweneesh with my arrow, but I broke my bow to pieces. I’ll need to remember to purchase another bow. When Zarlon got the boots off, I got them on me and jumped down to help. After we slayed the manticore, we found a safe with some treasure in it, but still no lost weapon. But we did find another room.

This room seemed like a sort of lounge with couches and a hookah. A halfling, or something like one, was in the room. He seemed friendly but odd, and he got into a circular conversation with Lichen. Suddenly, disappeared, and in his place was five large creatures of some sort! At the same time we were hit with some sort of magic. Most of us were badly hurt, and Zarlon and Gweneesh were knocked unconscious. Sadly, Gweneesh’s cat familiar, Thor, perished in the attack. I tried to get a potion down Gweneesh’s throat, but Lichen managed to heal them enough for them to groggily get up. Grog, Lichen, and I proceeded to attack the creatures. As we attacked them, they disappeared. I had a suspicion that each would disappear when touched until only one was left, and that turned out to be true. As we fought the last one, he cast some sort of spell on me.

By now, I’ve realized what happened, but at the time, it went something like this. I was attacking the enemy with my group of friends when all of a sudden, I was in the room my friend who was being attacked by four invaders. I turned to the outsiders and began to battle them, trying my best to kill them. One went invisible, but I continued to slash in front of me where I thought he was. Unfortunately, I couldn’t protect my friend as the invaders slayed him.

And then suddenly I realized that it was my enemy who was in fact killed, and that I was under the effects of some sort of mind control spell. It was like I was a different person. What would have happened if I hadn’t snapped out of it? Was that Kyros killed only for my original personality to be revealed once again?

Regardless, we stumbled across an invisible sword in the room. After some debate, we tried to grab it up. Many of us just couldn’t do it. It was like the sword didn’t want to be gripped by us, and we were powerless to go against our wishes. It tolerated Gweneesh and Lichen, but I don’t know why. Lichen picked it up, and it began to take control of him just as he dropped it into the Bag of Holding.

Blackrazor was found, and now we had only two more weapons to locate.

– Kyros

This was my first session of AD&D 1e ever and my first with this group. They’ve been playing for some time now, so I jumped in at level 5. I had a lot of fun, and so far, this module has been great. Most of the night was spent thinking about how to overcome the rooms themselves rather than slaying enemies. I’m not used to that, but I really enjoyed it.

The Intergalactic Nemesis Book One: Target Earth

The Intergalactic Nemesis

Friday night I saw The Intergalactic Nemesis Book One: Target Earth, written and directed by Jason Neulander, at Segerstrom Center for the Arts with my brother, James. I had purchased tickets to see it with gem, but she had to travel on business. It’s a live-action graphic novel. Have you ever heard of that? As soon as I did, I knew I had to see it. The show consists of panes of the graphic novel being projected one at a time, live piano accompaniment, live sound effects, and three actors performing the characters. It’s live radio drama combined with a graphic novel!

The story involves a lot of funny science-fiction stereotypes. In the 1930’s a journalist and her assistant get caught up with aliens, robots, time-travel, invasions, and more. It’s an amusing story that’s very entertaining, especially if you’re familiar with older science fiction or classic sci-fi radio drama. I’m thankful that I’ve listened to Space Patrol, the radio space opera from the 1950’s, because it definitely helped me to appreciate The Intergalactic Nemesis.

The production was amazingly fun. While the visuals were supposedly the panels of the graphic novel, the voice actors used gestures and facial expressions as well. Even the woman performing the sound effects, woman controlling the sequence of panels, and pianist contributed with reactions.

So, how does one go about watching? I watched both the voice actors and the graphic novel. As different sound effects were used, I’d look at the woman making them. I usually wouldn’t look at the woman controlling the panels or the pianist unless something shocking was said in the dialogue. When all three voice actors made a reactionary face, usually the other performers would as well.

After the show, the cast and creator held an autograph session. I purchased books one and two in graphic novel and radio drama and got all of it signed. Book two is going to be performed at the same location in November, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. If you get the chance to see the show, I’d recommend it!