Wizard World Experience: Toys, Animation and the Loot

Toys were another reason I went to Wizard World Chicago. However, since I've already spent most of my money on comics, I didn't really find anything that I like and can afford. Most of the toys at the convention were either an exclusive or a collector's item, and the prices were just sky high. But if you're broke and can't afford the toys (or anything for that matter), there's free stuff laying around the big booths. And if you're bored and tired of walking, you can also chill at the FUNmation room and watch episodes of anime.

Batman & Robin welcomes you to DC Comics' booth.

I had time to spare in between signings (after Warren Ellis' and before Billy Tucci's and E.Bas') and I used it to visually glut on the toys. DC Direct, being my favorite toy manufacturer, was on top of my list. Most displayed toys in their stall were only previews, however, not for sale. But looking at those toys had reduced me to a slobbering piece of meat. Especially the Batman Black & White and Watchmen figures.

Clockwise from top left: Watchmen, Dark Knight, The Spirit, DC Direct Dolls, and Batman Black & White.

Tonner Inc. was my second stop. They have a lot of beautiful dolls based on DC comics characters. But they have also other stuff like Lara Croft and Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, their prices was just too much for me. Each doll almost cost $100. But I think the price is right. These dolls are just sterlingly done. I would've got one if I still had money. It's a good thing I left my cards at home on purpose, or else I'd be even more broke.

Clockwise from top left: Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lara Croft, Batpeople and Wonder Woman, and DC Characters.

Had lunch after I got tired of loitering around the center. Then, after eating, I went to the FUNmation to watch an anime. Witchblade, a comic book adopted into Japan anime, was just about to start when I got in. At first, I thought it was a typical anime: where voluptuous girls fights endlessly and needlessly. While the main character was voluptuous, indeed, I was wrong about the fighting part. In fact, I think, the story was about motherhood? It was good but they only showed 3 episodes. So it kinda left me hanging on the cliff.

Women of Witchblade, Masane and Reina.

The show finished just before Billy Tucci's and E.Bas signing. But before I went back to Fantastic Realm's booth. I took my time to get some free swag at the booths. DC Comics probably has the best free loot. I mean, they were giving away Trinity #1. It was a full issue as well, not just a preview one. On top of that, they also gave buttons, mouse pads, posters, and bookmarks. Top Cow also gave Witchblade #116 for free and previews of Madame Mirage and Firstborn. I didn't get anything from Marvel's booth. So I'm not sure if they were giving stuff away, or I just missed out. I also got a box of Magic: The Gathering and Wizard magazine from Wizard World.

The Loot.

It was very easy to go over your budget at the event. So I felt good and wise about myself for brining only enough cash, and balanced my time getting free swag and spending my money on limited edition comics. It's a good thing there were a lot of things going on at Wizard World, both for the fortunate and unfortunate. Though I still wish sometimes I brought my cards with me so I could get some nice toys. But there's always a next time, and it's probably a good idea to start saving for Wizard World Chicago 2009.


Wizard World Experience: Books and Signings

Wizard World Chicago, I finally got to attend the convention last Friday. It was everything I expected it to be. It was crowded, crazy and colorful. Of course, there were a lot of comics -exclusives and collectibles- and people from the comic industry such as writers, artists, publishers, and retailers. While I wasn't fortunate enough to buy all the comics that I wanted or get all of my books signed by my favorite artists/writers, I did manage to snag a couple of limited edition comics and some autographs that made my attendance more than worthwhile.

Portal to Wizard World Chicago.

The main reason I attended Wizard World was to get my books signed by Brian Michael Bendis, and then get them graded by the CGC. The first thing I did when I got in the convention was run to CGC's booth. I had tons of questions regarding their Signature Series that needed to be clarified. But their booth was already swarming with customers by the time I got there. I waited for awhile but soon realized that the line to the Bendis signing event won't get any shorter. So I gave up on CGC and hastily worked my way back to Marvel's booth. Alas, I was too late, Marvel had already capped the line for the signing. A rain on my parade, that was. But I decided that it was too early for me to feel dejected and moved on towards Avatar Press' booth.

Hulk smashed my plans at the Bendis signing event.

I've never heard of Avatar Press before. But when I did my research on them I immediately fell in love with their titles. Black Summer, especially, a book where a superhero assassinates the president, was very intriguing to me. I just had to get it. So I gathered all the issues at their booth, and then haggled with them to lower their price. I failed. But they gave me a pass to Warren Ellis' signing event (which I didn't know about). I hopped in, of course, since I needed him to sign my Black Summer books. When Mr. Ellis came around the booth, he yelled "Bendis is over there!" while pointing his finger towards Marvel. "Who cares about Bendis?" says the guy in front of me. Well, actually, I do. But I'll take Ellis over Bendis anytime of the day.

Me with Warren Ellis, writer of Black Summer and Transmetropolitan.

My next destination was Fantastic Realm, a distributor of rare comics from various publishers. The reason I sought them was because they carry Zenescope titles such as Grimm Fairy Tales and Return to Wonderland. I've been searching high and low for these titles even before I got back into comics. So I got all the limited edition prints of Return to Wonderland (at a good price too). But, unfortunately, I didn't had money to buy the Grimm Fairy Tales issues. It was also fortuitous that two artists that did Return to Wonderland, E.Bas and Billy, were there to sign my books. I must admit, while the story of both books are exemplary, it was the erotic art of Eric Basaldua, Billy Tucci, and Al Rio that enticed me to get the books.

Limited Prints of Return to Wonderland #1-6. #3 and #6 signed by Tucci. #4 and #5 signed by E.Bas.

With all of my itinerary done, and a little time and money left, I began to scour the retail areas for some bargains. First, I got all the back issues that I missed as well as the current releases. I got all 12 comics for only $30. That's like $9 savings right there, and I didn't even haggle for it. Then, I also found kiosks that sells new and cheap trade paperbacks. One kiosk sells all Marvel paperbacks for $5 each. By diligently digging through their boxes, I found New X-Men Vol.1, Avengers Disassembled, House of M, and X-Men: Decimation and got them for a total of $20. The other kiosk sells their stuff for half the cover price. From them, I was able to scavenge Infinite Crisis and Crisis on Infinite Earths for a haggled price of $20 as well.

The last drop of my money.

I was really tired by the end of the day. My feet were sore from walking. My shoulders were burning from carrying my backpack, which was now 5 times heavier from all the free loot and things that I bought. It was a really fun experience. And even though I didn't get Bendis to sign my favorite comics, I still had Warren Ellis', E.Bas', and Billy Tucci's mark on my rare books. I'll definitely do this all over again next year.


Power Shot

While I was preparing my "battle gear" for this Friday's Wizard World Convention, I found out that my mom will use the camera on the same date. Since it's her camera, I can't do anything about it. Luckily, a Canon PowerShot SD750 is on sale this whole week at Best Buy. I didn't want it at first because $200 is still a steep price. Besides, with $200 I can buy more exclusive toys at the convention. But, then again, this will be my first geeky convention. So, in the end, I capitulated at that notion and bought the camera.

Amp knobs, macro shot by my new Canon PowerShot SD750.

I played with it immediately after I got home and...wow! The images shot from my new camera are awesome. They're not D-SLR quality but for a slim design camera, it sure is amazing. I can even do macro shots without blurring, unlike before with our old Sony Cybershot. With that said, I rolled out some of my action figures and started taking pictures of them. You can catch more of my "shutterbug" fever here.


Album Review: Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
8.8 of 10

Comical music, it's pretty scarce. Not a lot of artists dabble with it because -my guess- it's pretty hard to get it right. Of course, a few did get it right. Tenacious D is a perfect example of that. The duo managed to sound so serious that, despite their hilarity, they still rock hard. Flight of the Conchords, in their self-titled debut, also achieved to weld comedy and music properly, creating a brilliantly hilarious album.

Flight of the Conchords pretty much runs in the same vein as Tenacious D. Like Tenacious D, they're also a duo who performs comical music and has their own TV series on HBO. The only difference between the two are their music. While Tenacious D plays rock, Flight of the Conchords covers a wide array of music on their new album. "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros", a rap with a satirical approach to hip-hop, tells the story of two polite rappers. "Think About It" is a morbid song -about drugs and violence- that is sugar coated with a smooth, Marvin Gaye-esque tune. "Robots", perhaps the funniest track on the album, is an electronica song about robot domination over the world.

Overall, Flight of the Concord's self-debut is entertaining, both musically and comically. Not only did the duo showcased their vocal talents -from rap to electronica and r&b to new wave- but they've also demonstrated that they're funny. I've never laughed so hard listening to music since Beatallica's 2007 album, Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band. I assure you, just listening to one of their tracks will lighten you day.


First Impressions: D&D 4th Edition - Player's Handbook

The Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition Core Rulebook Collection that I ordered from Amazon arrived today. I wasn't expecting this until the first week of July that's why I'm so thrilled to be holding it this early. The whole collection contains all three of the core rulebooks: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. Nothing is really special with this collection except that it is contained in a slipcase and it's much cheaper ($58 for the collection as opposed to a total of $105 when buying all three rulebooks separately).

I've only read a portion of the Player's Handbook, and I haven't put the new rules to the test. So I can't say if I'm disappointed with it or not. But I do have some gripes with the new edition. First, in the new book, you can only multi-class at levels 11 and 21, or take a multi-class feat so your character can gain other class' powers or skills. Since I like to play and experiment with multi-classed characters, I don't like this new rule. Secondly, Barbarians, Bards, and Monks are no longer core classes. Bards and Monks were two of my favorite classes, so that's quite vexing. Hopefully, they'll be made available in future modules or campaign settings.

One thing I'm certain about the new edition though: It has been simplified, especially the character classes. Unlike in 3.5 edition, there's no base attack bonus, spell progression and feat progression that varies with each class. Instead, in the new edition, all classes gain the same amount of feats and powers. So there are less tables and grids of information this time. That's the beauty of 4th edition. Less complexity means less arguing and more gaming. I'm sure it'll appeal to those who wanted to try D&D but have been intimidated by the rules. As for me, I'll need to put the new edition into play first before I could wholly decide if it is better than the old.


Kid Rocks!

At first there was Metallica vs. Napster. Then a couple weeks ago KISS dissed Radiohead for making In Rainbows free for download. Now here is Kid Rock who advises his fans to download his songs in P2P networks for free, illegally. His reasons:

"..I want you to hear my music so I can play live[...] iTunes takes the money, the record company takes the money, and they don't give it to the artists,"
Well, it actually makes sense. But I'm still going to continue buying CDs because I like owning a hard copy. And while this stunt is very punk and cool to me, I still won't go out there and buy tickets to just see Kid Rock.

You can read the full story here.


Wizard World Chicago

Since I couldn't afford the $200 ticket to Lollapalooza, I decided to go to other summer events here in Chicago. The Chicago Blues Festival was my first option but it's too late for me already. I didn't know they changed the dates and held it earlier this June. Next on my list is the Wizard World Chicago, a toy and comics convention. They, too, pushed the event earlier this year. Fortunately, I was able to secure an advance ticket (which will get me a loot bag) one day before the deadline.

I haven't been to any kind of geeky convention before. But I always wanted to go to Wizard World Chicago ever since. I just didn't had the time. So I'm really excited to be able to go this year. I'm saving up a bit of money just in case I see an awesome toy in the fare. I'm also hoping to catch some artists and writers of my favorite comics so I can have them signed and then graded by CGC. Well, I can't wait for it to happen already.


Avengers Assemble!

I saw The Incredible Hulk this afternoon, and I couldn't dig into it. Not because the movie was bad. In fact, it was way better than the first one (and way better than Daredevil). It's just that I've been distracted by some minor details -factoids from the Marvel Universe lore and cameos- in the film, which made me speculate that an Avengers movie is in the works.

Along with some stuff from Iron Man, and future Marvel, movies, I'll lay down those little facts and tie-ins that started my speculation and prevented me from fully enjoying my movie.

  1. Nick Fury (Ultimate version), commander of SHIELD and leader of The Ultimates (Ultimate version of the Avengers), appeared as a cameo in Iron Man.
  2. A Thor movie is in the works. Marvel also announced he will appear as a cameo in Iron Man 2.
  3. Weapons developed by Stark Industries were used in The Incredible Hulk.
  4. The Super-Soldier serum, which turned Steve Rogers into Captain America, made an appearance and was utilized in The Incredible Hulk.
  5. In The Incredible Hulk, Hulk threw a large boulder and screamed at the thunderstorm. Thor is the God of Thunder, he conjured that thunderstorm. (Maybe it was Storm, or maybe I'm just crazy)
  6. Wolverine, a member of the New Avengers, will have a new movie that'll feature his origins. His origins go way back into WWII, and he fought along with the likes of Nick Fury and Captain America.
  7. Tony Stark appeared as a cameo in The Incredible Hulk. Then he told General Ross that they are "forming a team".
Now you have my factoids. I know they are a bit crazy. But there's a big possibility that an Avengers movie will happen. The actors are already there to play Iron Man, Nick Fury, The Hulk, and Wolverine (highly unlikely to be on the team). Soon they'll pick somebody to don the mantle of Thor for his movie. But, in truth, I'm not even a fan of the Avengers or the Ultimates (though I'm a fan of the Avengers where Jessica Drew is a member of). So I don't even know why I'm excited about this.


Alien Entertainment Company

I accompanied my mom, earlier today, and we did a lot of housing upgrade stuff. We shopped for window well covers, visited a lot landscaping companies, and canvassed for privacy fences. While on our way home, just out of the blue, she decided to get her hair trimmed and stopped at the nearest hair salon. It's a good thing that the hair salon was located on a strip mall, or else I would've been dead bored. I strolled around the strip mall and one store, named Alien Entertainment Company, caught my eye. I looked inside through the window and saw toys upon toys.


When I went inside, it was like geek paradise. They've got all manners of action figures and collectibles. From DC Direct, Marvel Legends, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings, they have them all. They also have a lot of anime figures, and at reasonable prices too. But it doesn't stop there they have boxes of back issue comics, cheap graphic novels, and DVDs. The only thing you need here is money to spend, and since this wasn't a planned visit, unfortunately, I didn't have any. But there will always be a next time.


First Impressions: Rings of Fate and Days of Ruin

It seems that my renewed appetite for adventure games was short-lived. I was currently playing Dracula: Origin but found the game too slow and dragging. Unlike before, I couldn't stand running around and searching for clues anymore. So I just stopped playing the game and, instead, decided to get some Nintendo DS games: Days of Ruin and Rings of Fate.

Rings of Fate

Rings of Fate is part of the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The reason I got this game is because I like Final Fantasy (but I don't admit it too often). As far as the FF series goes, I thought they all have turn-based combat. But, unfortunately, Rings of Fate is real-time. Nonetheless, the story and characters seems interesting enough for me to finish this game.

Days of Ruin
Days of Ruin is the latest installment of the Advance Wars -a turn-based strategy game- series. I haven't played any Advance Wars games before but Days of Ruin is so addicting! I instantly got infected with the "just one more turn" bug the first minute I started playing it. I even had a hard time putting my DS down just to blog about it (my battery died on me, hence this entry).

Hopefully, these two games will keep me occupied until the holiday games rush (which starts around mid-September). Also, I'll probably write a review on one of these games (probably Days of Ruin) since I haven't written a game review for the NDS.


Party in the Storm

I've been waiting for Mysteries of the Westgate, an adventure pack (or premium module) for Neverwinter Nights 2. But the release date have been pushed back until July, Atari announced last Thursday (June 5 2008). On the brighter side of a similar interest, they [Atari] also announced Storm of Zehir, a 2nd expansion for Neverwinter Nights 2, which will be released in Q4 2008.

I was kind of expecting this news, the announcement of a new expansion pack, considering that the first Neverwinter Nights has 2 expansions. Only tidbits have been revealed about it though like a new storyline, which will be a post-King of Shadows event, and using a new party. That's right party, not just a character. You'll be building a party much like you did in the Icewind Dale series. No new races, classes, prestige classes, or level cap has been announced. Not yet, at least.


Book Review: Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good

Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good
8.7 of 10
by Sarah Lacy

The Web 2.0, I use it the moment I wake up, from searching gaming news at Digg to reading user reviews of a local comic store at Yelp. Even as I write this short and humble review, I use it. That's why I picked up Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good, a book about the rise of Web 2.0, hoping to learn more about the revolution that made the internet a very interesting place. A small part of the book, however, is riddled with business jargon that I could barely understand, making it a little bit dragging. Fortunately, the book contains enough interesting histories and struggles of Web 2.0 companies that outweighs the boring parts. But, to me, it was the awe-inspiring stories and fairy tale-like successes of the founders (who became millionaires during their 20's) that made the book a very good read.


Featured Band: Quitzow

Downtime was up at work today, and I got bored. So I did a little "digging" in the web in order to kill some time. I clicked lazily through rubbles of news and articles, link after uninteresting link. But, since it's the net, in which you'll most likely find something profound through serendipity, I finally stumbled upon an interesting band on MySpace called Quitzow.

Quitzow, taken from their MySpace page.

Quitzow, led by Erica Quitzow, is one fun band from New York. I like to call them as a poppy "Moog fest" indie band. It turns out they'll be releasing an album next week. It's just too bad because My Morning Jacket's Urging Evil will be out next week too. I'll see if I can squeeze my budget so I can fit Quitzow's self-titled debut. But, for the meantime, let's just listen to their tracks at their MySpace page. I highly recommend listening to "Sponsor" and "Cats R People 2".


Dracula cures WoW addiction

My World of Warcraft subscription expired the other day. I was planning to renew it, of course, since I'll be reduced to nothing but a gibberish murloc if I don't "level up" or find a "phat lewt" by the end of the day. However, when I went out earlier to get a time card (I use time cards instead of credit cards for better subscription management and control), I was enticed by the box art of Dracula: Origin, a newly released adventure game.

A screenshot from Dracula: Origin

I continued staring at the game's box art as if I was mesmerized. Then, without a moment's notice, my hand involuntarily reached for the box and grabbed it. My feet too, followed suit, seems to move on its own accord as it scuttled me away from the game shelves. It all happened so fast and all of a sudden I was outside the store, with a game in hand and no time card. I let out a sigh of relief. The kind of relief that a smoker gets when he's exiting a convenient store with a Slim Jim in hand rather than a pack of Marlboro. It seems to me that I made my first and final blow of curing my WoW addiction.


Adventure Games: Finally returning or just a fluke?

Besides my World of Warcraft and Sins of a Solar Empire routine, I haven't played any other game since February, and both games are waning on me. I don't want to get Mass Effect because my computer is "too old" to handle it, and Age of Conan...I'd love to try it (I'm curious about the boobies) but I don't have the time for it. So, before I get bored, I'd better have my hands on a DS game or an adventure game.

Pey'j and Jade (under the shade) of Beyond Good & Evil 2.

Adventure games, it's been a while since I've played anything from that genre (the last one was Dreamfall back in 2006). But I'm no core gamer, so I don't really seek out adventure games. I only play what I find in my radar. But this year's first quarter have seen a handful of decent releases, decent enough for my radar to take notice. Games such as Sam and Max, The Experiment, and Penny Arcade Adventures have enjoyed a little bit of the spotlight, and Ubisoft also announced Beyond Good & Evil 2 (a favorite adventure game of mine) just a couple days ago. So are adventure games really returning this time? Or is this just a bubble and burst?