Thursday, January 21, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-3

On DC-3, there’s the last few issues of the Brave and Bold run, #189-193, DC Comics Presents #1-52, DC Special #27-29, DC Special Series #1, #5, 9-11, 15, and 21. The shelf concludes with Detective Comics #463-487.

As I went through planning each run of comics that I wanted to include in my collection, many factors weighed in to help me make those decisions. In the case of the Brave and the Bold, the character of Nemesis was the greatest factor. 

Originally, I intended a much shorter run for the series. I knew I wanted the Hawkman team-up story in issue #139 (where the run begins,) and I knew I wanted the Ra’s Al Ghul team-up story in issue #159. The run may have ended up being just those 21 issues, but I just had to look ahead … 

#160 had Supergirl. I wanted that one. #161 had Adam Strange (a personal favorite.) I wanted that one, too! #162 had Sgt. Rock! That was so unusual, that I had to put that one in the run! #163 had Black Lightning. I wanted that. #164 had Hawkman again. That created a nice symmetry. I would end my run there. 26 issues was a decent run, but what if I looked ahead just a few more … 

Manbat was the next character. This tied into Manbat appearances in Batman Family and Detective Comics. I wanted that. The next issue featured the Penguin. A team-up with a villain hardly feels like a team-up at all. Stories like this could appear in the pages of Batman’s main title or Detective Comics. This wasn’t something special. I could end my Brave and Bold run at the Manbat issue, #165.

But, there was one thing … a back-up story in #166, that introduced a new character called: Nemesis. Nemesis was created by Cary Burkett and Dan Spiegle. The story in Nemesis was engaging, and the art … I love the art of Dan Spiegle. I had to have more Nemeis. The Nemesis back-up stories ran from issue #166-192. The entire run is written by Burkett and drawn by Spiegle. Throughout most of the run, the Nemesis back-up story outshines the lead story in the issue by a fair margin.

I am very happy to have discovered the character of Nemesis. These stories are not ones that I read as a boy, but I am overjoyed to include them in my collection now. Issue #192 ended the run of Nemesis as a back-up series, but issue #193 ended the story arc. Issue #193 was a full-length story (no back-up feature) that teamed Batman and Nemesis, and brought the Nemesis story to a conclusion.

Issue #193 sadly didn’t feature the art of Nemesis co-creator Dan Spiegle, but it was written by Burkett, and it featured the art of Brave and Bold’s headline artist, Jim Aparo. Jim is another favorite artist. This final issue is amazing on all fronts. #193 concludes my Brave and Bold run, and concludes the Nemesis story. That makes Brave and Bold #193 my choice for feature Brave and Bold issue on the DC-3 Shelf.

DC Comics Presents teams various characters from the DC Universe with Superman. It is one of my favorite titles, and this one has many great issues. For my favorite, I’m going with #24. This one is written by Len Wein and drawn beautifully by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and features a story staring Deadman which is a follow-up to the run featured in Adventure Comics.

The Adventure Comics stories were also written by Wein and drawn by Lopez. The follow-up story in DC Comics Presents #24  is interesting. It’s written purely to give poor Deadman some closure following the events in Adventure Comics. It’s a great character driven piece, and I love watching Deadman geek-out like a comic nerd when he sees Superman for the first time!

DC Special #29 features the Untold Origin of the Justice Society! It’s awesome! I collected a random assortment of DC Special Series Issues. The ones I have are all Dollar Comics except one, and I am picking that one as a favorite just because I can remember when mom bought it for me and brought it home. It’s issue #10.

Finally, there’s Detective Comics. Among these issues is the short, but iconic run by Steve Englehart and Marshal Rogers. I know everyone goes ga-ga over the “Joker fish” issues, but I like the Penguin story in #473. It teams Batman and Robin, and I like that.

Detective Comics #473 also has the distinction of being the first comic that I can remember specifically trading for. I can't remember which comic I gave up, but I know that I definitely thought that I got the better end of the deal at the time.

The friend, with whom I traded, Jason King, told me he didn't want the issue because it featured the Penguin. He didn't want any issues that featured any of the villains he had seen in the TV show. (Kids felt that way about the 1966 TV show back then. Not me though, I loved it!)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-2

On my Marvel-2 Shelf, I have Avengers #160-180, Giant Size Avengers #2-4, Avengers Annual #6-9, and Captain America #200-230.

The favorites from this batch are pretty easy. Avengers #160 featuring Wonder Man has long been a favorite, and the George Perez artwork is stunning.

Giant-Size Avengers #4 features the wedding of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision. Given that my dear wife Julie and I were married two years ago today, featuring a wedding issue is a must!

Avengers Annual #7 is the first half of the conclusion to Jim Starlin’s excellent Thanos epic. This comic was a major influence on the MCU Avengers movies, and an obvious choice for favorite.

Picking a favorite among the Captain America options was a little trickier. It had to be a Jack Kirby issue! They’re all good, but after flipping through the lot, looking at Kirby’s incredible bigger than life illustrations, I’ve chosen #210. Just ‘cuz, I like the pictures in it the best!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-2

On the DC-2 shelf, I have Batman #291-335, Batman Annual #8, Batman Family #17-20, Black Lightning #1-11, Brave & Bold #139-173, 180, 181, 183-187. 

I’m picking Batman #295 as my favorite from among the issues in my Batman run. It is a story by Gerry Conway with art by Michael Golden. It’s a one-shot story and a straight up murder mystery. It’s been one of my favorite stories for a long time. So, it had to be my choice here.

I only have 4 issues of Batman Family. These were the only issues published in the Dollar Comics format. When DC was forced to cancel a bunch of titles by its parent company Warner Brothers, the only titles that were really safe were the Dollar Comics. They didn’t necessarily outsell other titles, but they did well enough, and the profit margin per sale was three times that of other titles. 

The problem was Batman had yet to live down the image created for him by the 1966 TV Series. Batman wasn’t a strong seller, and Warner wanted DC to cancel Detective Comics. Detective Comics is DC’s first published comic, with a cover date of March 1937. (Action Comics #1 has a cover date of June 1938.) Detective Comics is where DC gets its name.

To avoid canceling Detective Comics, it was changed to the Dollar Comic format and rebilled to feature the Batman Family. And the Batman Family title was canceled in its place. So, only 4 issues with the official title of Batman Family exist in my collection, but the title continued without missing a beat in the pages of Detective Comics, and DC’s namesake was saved from the ax.

My favorite Batman Family issue is #17. It features a guest visit from the Huntress (During this period in the comics the Huntress is a superhero from Earth-Two, and the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Yay!) The Huntress’ visit carries through all the stories in the book and ties them together nicely. It’s an awesome issue!

I have the entire run of Black Lightning, only 11 issues. Issue #5 features Black Lightning with Superman, but I am choosing issue #4 as my favorite. It features Black Lightning and Jimmy Olsen. I’d like to think that if the series had lasted, that Jimmy would have made more appearances. It’s a really fun issue.

Brave and Bold #149 features Batman with the Teen Titans: Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Kid Flash. It’s the last time that this particular foursome will be teamed together. The only character missing is Aqualad. After this we’ll get the New Teen Titans, but I really liked this group better. So, I’m picking Brave and Bold #149 as my favorite.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-1

On my Marvel-1 Shelf there’s Amazing Spider-Man, Astonishing Tales, and a few issues of the Avengers!

I have Amazing Spider-Man #165-181 and Annuals #13-15. These are all fantastic issues! I have a tough time picking a favorite. All of the main issues feature Ross Andru, who is an amazing illustrator. The annuals are all three fantastic, one featuring John Byrne, and the other two drawn by Frank Miller. How can I choose? I’ll start by picking an issue from the regular series run. I’m going with #166. It features the Lizard (a character that I really like,) and it’s a Christmas story, which is great!

As for the Spider-Man Annuals: each is amazing! #13 has Spider-Man infiltrate Doctor Octopus’s gang and is drawn by John Byrne. #14 has guest appearances by Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom, and is drawn by Frank Miller and inked by Tom Palmer, and #15 sees Dr. Octopus’s return (Spider-Man comics sure have a lot of Doctors!) as well as an appearance by the Punisher!  It’s drawn by Miller and inked by Klaus Janson, the Daredevil dream team! I can’t choose between them, so I’m showing off all three.

Astonishing Tales features: Deathlok the Destroyer! (At least the issues in my collection do!) I have #25-27 and #33-36. These are all amazingly written and drawn by Rich Buckler. I am choosing to feature #25 because it’s the “first issue” origin story.

Last on the Marvel-1 shelf we have a few issues of the Avengers. There’s #127, 128, & 145. Of these, I gotta go with #127! It’s part one of a crossover with both the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans that leads directly into Fantastic Four #150!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-1

My comic book collection is all about the comics that I had (or would have had in a perfect world) as a kid. My planned collection contains books published in a 10 year period between 1974 to 1983. All told, when I am done, I will have 2000 comic books.

For now, as part of my "on the shelf" series, I will talk about the books that I've bought so far. Obviously, (or maybe not so obviously -- it is me, after all) I won't talk about every comic on the shelf. There are far too many for that. I'll just hit, what are for me, the high points, thus far.

On the DC-1 Shelf are issues of Action Comics, Adventure Comics,  All-Star Comics, All Star Squadron, Aquaman, and Batman.

I have Action Comics #480-500. I love the 4 issue story arc in #480-483 that pits Superman against the super android: Amazo, and features the Supermobile!

Adventure Comics #435 features the Spectre with amazing art by Jim Aparo, and the Aquaman backup is the first solo appearance of Aquaman in my collection. I have Adventure #435-466. This spans Aquaman's first solo appearance and carries through the title's Dollar Comics phase. I LOVE all things Dollar Comics, and I am choosing Adventure’s first Dollar Comics issue to feature.

All-Star Comics #57 was published in March of 1951. My run begins with #58 published in February of 1976 - 25 years later! I have every issue published until the series was canceled with #74 in October of 1978. The series survived for only 17 issues. My favorite issue has to be the first one. #58 featured a cover by Mike Grell, interior art by the immortal Wally Wood, and it introduced the world to Power Girl!

All Star Squadron is the spiritual successor to All Star Comics. These issues feature early art by the amazing Jerry Ordway. Of the ones that I currently own, I am going to pick issue #15 as my favorite. It’s part of an epic multi-part crossover between the Justice League of America, the Justice Society, and the All Star Squadron! The issue is inked by the aforementioned Mr. Ordway, and features a cover by Joe Kubert!

Aquaman graduated from the pages of Adventure Comics for a short span. (Adventure changed to feature Superboy.) The run is very short, #57-63 (7 issues.) When Adventure switched to the Dollar Comic format, Aquaman returned to those pages. For my favorite of these, I pick #58. It has great art by Jim Aparo for the lead story. It features a flashback retelling of Aquaman’s origin, and it has the first part of a backup story starring: Mera, with art by Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta.

Only 4 issues of Batman on this shelf, #287-290. These issues feature 2 two-issue stories by David V. Reed and drawn by Mike Grell. Hard to pick a favorite among these as they are all four excellent issues. I will pick #287 because it features the Penguin, and that cover is outlandish!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Board Games that I played that came out in 2020!

I was thinking that I didn’t get that many board games in 2020. But, then when I went back and had a count, the number is 14. That may not seem like a whole lot for a hobbyist, but it works out to more than 1 a month, and this doesn't include games that I got this year that have been published in previous years. In fact, of those published in 2020, I haven’t even played them all. So, that seems like more than enough for me. I thought it might be fun to run down my top 10 games from 2020. (These are the 10 that I played!)

10 - Mint Cooperative
I have some 2020 games in my collection that I haven’t yet gotten to the table that might easily push Mint Cooperative off my list. Julie and I liked this okay, but I don’t think I can call it a favorite. The main draw of the “Mint-Series” of games is portability, but we actually got another cooperative game in 2020 that fits that bill, which we like a lot better. This one is just, okay.

9 - Kingswood
This is an odd little rondel style game. After we played the game, I received an expansion that was part of my Kickstarter. We haven’t played that yet, but I think it will elevate the game play quite a lot.

8 - Gate
This is a solo game. I only own a few of these. Mostly, I don’t play solo games. I would rather play with my wonderful Julie. So, those few solo games that find their way into my collection must be really good. This one is. Gate is a dark fantasy themed tower defense game where you must use the townsfolk (a deck of cards that you build as you play) to defeat monsters that threaten the town. It’s a solid game. It’s quick to set up and play, and it comes in a tiny tin that can be carried anywhere. Plus, the designer: Jason Glover once sent me a little fan-email regarding one of my RPG designs. How cool is that!

7 - Fox in the Forest Duet
Fox in the Forest is a great two-player only trick-taking game. Julie and I loved the original game, so when this cooperative version came out, we had to try it. While I like the original game better, Julie and I did like this one, and I will be happy to get it to the table again. So, here we have a small cooperative game that I like better than Mint Cooperative, but this isn’t the game that I was talking about above.

6 - Fossilis
This game is high on the “toy” factor. You have little plastic tiles that represent bits of sand, stone, and clay that you must shift in order to reveal dinosaur bones that you are working to excavate. Digging up the best dinos and making the best sets gets you the most points to win the game. This one is light, family fun!

5 - Mint Condition Comics
While this might sound like one of the “Mint-Series” games, it’s not. “Mint Condition” is a collector’s term, which is commonly used by comic book collectors. As a comic book fan, I was hoping to enjoy this one, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting to (if that makes any sense.) I bought it for the theme and held my breath with fingers crossed that it might actually be good. As it happens, it is great. It manages to capture the theme of collecting comic books well with simple set collection mechanics, and is a really satisfying little card game.

4 - Solar Storm
In this small portable cooperative game, players work together to save their damaged spaceship from crashing into the sun. This one is quick to setup and play, but contains all the tension and excitement of a larger game. On our last play through, Julie and I finally beat the thing, which is a real accomplishment for us! THIS is the game that I was thinking of when I mentioned a small cooperative game that we like much better than Mint Cooperative. 

3 - Parks: Nightfall
This might be a little bit of a cheat. Parks came out in 2019, but it’s a new game for us, and the Nightfall expansion came out this year. Parks is a great game where you are campers exploring the National Parks. Nightfall adds a camping option that expands what players can do on their turn. It’s a great add-on that increases player options without ramping up complexity. We love it!

2 - Rallyman: GT
This is a race car game, and I love it. You use dice to control your car. For every space you move ahead on your turn, you roll a die. The dice have bad stuffs on them that can make you wreck your car, so you have to be careful about how many dice you roll (aka how fast you go.) It’s a great press your luck mechanism and an interesting puzzle!

1 - Marvel United
This was my favorite game this year! Superheroes! Cooperative play! Easy setup and game play! Many heroes to choose from! Three different arch villains / scenarios to challenge players! It’s great! GREAT!

I just realized that 4 of the 10 games are cooperative games. So, 2020 must be the year of cooperative games. Other games that we got that didn’t make this list because we haven’t yet played them are: Godzilla: Tokyo Clash, Sweet Existence, Small World of Warcraft, and Talisman: Kingdom Hearts. I’m sure that we will get these to the table soon!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Role Playing Games Part 14 - 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

The latest version of Dungeons & Dragons is D&D 5th Edition. It is part third edition D&D and part fourth edition D&D. It marries ideas from the two pretty well while drawing on the experiences of thousands of play-testers to streamline and simplify systems.

The 5th Edition Books are really nice, and I like this game a lot. On my shelf are familiar tomes: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and a few unique entries. 

There’s: Xanthar’s Guide to Everything, which features a bunch of new options for players. And, I have: Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica, which is a world/campaign guide for one of the worlds (the world?) that is a backdrop for Magic The Gathering.

The newest 5th Edition D&D book to enter my collectin is called: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. I don't have a lot to say about it because I haven't read it. Finally, I have pre-ordered a role-playing game based on Talisman the Board Game called: Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG.

That’s everything that’s on my RPG shelves. 

Including The Talisman Adventures RPG that I have on pre-order my RPG collection spans 127 volumes. However, I don’t actually have room on my shelf for the new book. I plan to remove both the Castlemourn books from my collection to make room. (The Talisman RPG is a thick book!) That leaves me with 125. I like that. 125 is a nice sounding number.

I have been trying to decide where and how to make cuts to my board game collection because my shelves are overflowing. I like the idea of reducing my board game collection to 125 board games. Then, my board games and my RPG count would be the same. I like the symmetry in that. That could happen.