Thursday, March 31, 2011

Looking at the “Essentials” Warlord

When Dungeons & Dragons 4E was first released, I found the warlord to be the most intriguing addition.  So I was intrigued when Dragon announced the new Class Compendium feature, which converts classes to the Essentials format, was tackling the warlord.

WarlordI assumed we would see a new build of the warlord which favored melee basic attacks over powers.  After all, the knight and slayer builds of the fighter, the executioner build of the assassin, and thief build of the rogue all took this tack.

What I was not expecting the changes to be as minimal as they were.  I would hesitate to call the new marshal build a build at all.    Instead, it seems to simply be a rewriting of the tactical warlord and the inspiring warlord using the new Essentials format.

The few mechanical differences seem to merely be errata rather than any attempts at new mechanics.  The power selection is slightly different than the Player’s Handbook Warlord, but is more of a “greatest hits” from existing source books than anything new.

The Good

I like the existing warlord, so the fact that the marshal build changes nothing isn’t really a negative to me.

The Bad

Frankly, I am confused as to what the point of the Class Compendium feature is.  I assumed it was going to provide new builds for existing classes which were similar to the new builds created for Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and Heroes of the Fallen Lands.  Instead, all we seem to have gotten is a change in the layout with a little errata thrown in.

As content for Dragon goes, that seems a little thin.

Monday, March 28, 2011

“A Former Hooters Waitress” -- Really MTV News?

amyadamsThe comic book blogosphere has been abuzz with the news that Amy Adams has been cast as Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel.  There has been a lot of talk about the fact that she is a three time Academy Award nominee.  Along with the casting of big name actors like Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent, this is seen as a sign that the reboot is going for a more serious and less campy tone than some of the previous films.

There has also been a lot of coverage about the fact that she is 36-year-old woman.  This probably wouldn’t be getting as much press as it is if it wasn't for the fact that Superman Returns featured 22-year-old actress Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, who was supposed to be believable as the mother of a 6-year-old kid.

I’m glad I read the MTV News write-up of the story though, or I never would have known that Amy Adams was a former Hooters waitress!

The reference bugged me.  Please note that I have nothing against Hooters waitresses, present or former.  I found it annoying because it seemed to be included in the article simply because some people would find that detail salacious.

After all, when Kevin Costner was announced as Pa Kent, I can’t imagine anyone wrote:

A former bus driver and male model, Kevin Costner made his debut in 1981’s Malibu Hot Summer playing John Logan.”

Oh well.  It is really nothing to get too worked up about I suppose.  After all, it IS only MTV news and not a “serious” news publication like the New York Times or the Washington Post.  MTV News makes a business of being provocative.

I swear though, if I am ever written up by MTV News and they describe me as “a former Patio busboy”, it is on like Donkey Kong!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crisis of infinite comics

DnD_Issue_1Recently a friend of mine asked me why I have not reviewed the new Dungeons & Dragons comic series IDW is publishing.  It makes sense that he would ask; after all I have spent a lot of time on this blog reviewing old Forgotten Realms comics from the eighties.  Reviewing the new series seems to be right up my alley.

The answer is simple enough though: I haven’t read any of the new Dungeons & Dragons comics.

Don’t take this to be any judgment against the new series.  In fact, I am looking forward to reading them at some point, most likely when they are inevitably collected in a trade paperback.  Rather, the new Dungeons & Dragons comic book is simply a victim of bad timing.  After nearly thirty years of  collecting comic books on a monthly basis, I have finally quit.

I suppose I have been quitting monthly comic books for years.  There was a point in my teenage years where I was easily collecting more than thirty comic books a month.  When I ended my monthly purchases the number of comics series I collected regularly was less than ten.

There isn’t just one reason behind me quitting.  It is fair to say price is a factor.  When I started collecting the average comic book cost around $0.65.  Now comics books cost $2.99 or $3.99 an issue.  Annuals and special issues can cost even more.

I understand the reasons behind the price increases over the years.  The biggest culprit has to do with the economies of scale.  Few comic books crack 100,000 issues sold a month nowadays.  Several month recently have had no comics sell over 100,000 issues.  With so few comics being sold, the price per issue has to go up in order to make a profit.

$3.99 still seems like an awful lot of money for a mere twenty-two pages of entertainment.

An even bigger factor leading to my quitting monthly comics is that month to month is no longer the optimal way to read comic books!  Back when I first started reading comics, “done-in-one” was still the primary format.  Even though there were continuing plot threads, the default assumption was that each issue of a comic book should tell a complete story. 

Most comic books nowadays are written with the inevitable trade paperback in mind.  The average storyline lasts about six issues, meaning any individual comic book only tells a fraction of a story.

So the optimal way of reading a comic book nowadays is waiting to read it in trade paperback form.  You get a full story, without having to wait a month between each chapter.  Even better, the cost per issue is inevitably less than buying the comic off the stands.  The only downside is that you have to wait a few months until the trade paperback is released.

Waiting simply isn’t as big a problem for me as it used to be.  It may even be an advantage.  While I might have a few plot twists spoiled while reading my favorite comics blogs, it also gives me a chance to see what the reviews look like.  After reading blog after blog complain about Superman: Grounded, I will definitely give it a pass.  On the other hand, it is unlikely I would have found the budget to buy an unknown quantity like Morning Glories on a monthly basis.  Having read so many glowing reviews of the series now though, picking up the trade paperback seems like a no brainer.

I do worry about the future of the comics industry.  I probably bought monthly comics for far longer than I should have out of some misguided sense that I could single-handedly hold back the tides of change sweeping though the comic book industry.  In the end  though, there is nothing I can do.  The comic book industry has to either adapt or die. 

I hope it adapts.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Internet’s foremost Batmanologist appears on John Stewart

I generally avoid link blogging, but this clip from The Daily Show is hilarious.  It features the Internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims (who blogs at The ISB and is a staff writer at Comics Alliance) talking about Nightrunner.

For those of you who are not keeping up with Batman at the moment, Bruce Wayne has recently begun recruiting other superheroes to act as regional Batmen throughout the world.  In Paris, he chose Nightrunner to be “Le Batman of France”.


This would not have been controversial if it wasn’t for the fact that in addition to being a citizen of France, Nightrunner is a Sunni Muslim.  Of course, this caused the Internet to explode.

So check out the clip!