Thursday, June 14, 2018

Gateway Role Playing Board Games

I have a fascination with late 80s and early 90s gateway board games.  That's what I call them at least.  These were games that took on tenets of  of role playing games without actually being role playing games.  It was a way for the mass market Toy companies cash in on the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy role playing games without gaining as much of the Ire from the Satanic Panic backlash that Dungeons and Dragons (and the company that made it, TSR) had felt during the 80s.

These Games were were typically board games in which players took on the role of a character (or took a role in the game) often these were cooperative games, and sometimes they even had a "game master" to play the bad guys in the game.  Typically these were Dungeon Crawl games, meaning the players were exploring dungeons or castles.  The dice were typically more akin to the polyhedral dice used in Role Playing games at the time than other board games.  Sometimes the dice were 6 sided but they had special symbols.  The games also made use of miniatures as pieces. Not only were the players pieces represented by these, but so were the monsters and villains that they would fight.  If anyone had glanced into a game store and seen miniature games being played before, these games  would have felt similar to that experience.  It was an easy way to experience something with a low buy in price.

These games also had fun components and looked complicated.  While these games may have acted as a gateway to Role Playing and other thematic gaming experiences.  They were also designed to combat the perceived immersion that video games were providing.  That was definitely a factor in the development of these games as well. 

The games I am going to talk about here, are mostly fantasy themed.  In some cases it felt like the company was more interested in selling the theme than they were a game.  Most of these games had boxes with paintings of warriors and wizards fighting dragons and other monsters.  Right out of the gate they conjured images of heroic quests and mighty fantasy heroes.  All of that was right on the cover.  It was the promise of adventure.  But it was still confined to the bounds of a board game!

The front box art for HeroQuest - Image taken from


The first of these games I am going to look at is probably the most popular and sought after.  HeroQuest was a collaboration between  Milton Bradley and British game company Games Workshop.   The game focused on 4 generic heroes (Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf, and Wizard) as they traversed dungeons and fought monsters (such as orcs, Goblins, and Gargoyles)  placed by Zargon (played by the another player)

The game is played on a board with castle or dungeon rooms.  Zargon (the game master) places furniture, doors and other provided objects around according to previously laid out  maps provided in the book.  The players then move around the grid on the board into and out of rooms fighting monsters and finding treasure. 

HeroQuest made use of special dice with Skulls and Shields printed on them.  These were used by all of the players to make their attacks and to defend against other attacks.  To hit, you were looking for skulls, and to defend you were looking for shields.

The HeroQuest setting was loosely based on that of the Warhammer property that Games Workshop produced.  The grim world of that dark fantasy worked translated well into the game.  The most specific tie to the setting were the Chaos Warriors that served as monsters in the game.

This game was a lot of kids first experience with fantasy gaming.  I have heard more than one story  of kids getting their start with RPGs with this game.  Which makes sense as it could be purchased at retail and there was no need to go into a specialty store to purchase the game.

The game was also expandable as there were expansions released with more miniatures and new adventures to be added to the game.  This was a fairly new concept to big box store games, and was pulled directly from the hobby gaming and RPG model.  It created more playability and replay ability of the game.

Check out the amazing commercial that was inundating kids on Saturday morning!  What kid wouldn't want to take a crack at this game! 


Milton Bradley and Games Workshop had another collaboration called Battle Masters which was a skirmish game made for a mass market.  This game more closely resembled WarHammer in terms of set up, and theme.  It was less role playing but maintained the thematic piece to connect to the modern RPGs of the time.
Once HeroQuest ceased publication games workshop continued the game with "Advanced HeroQuest" it was a similar concept but with a more complex set up and rule system.  More recently they brought a similar system and game back with Warhammer quest.

HeroQuest is still one of the most sought after games of this era.  The game is often found going for over $100.  It is a desirable piece for the collection, especially for those who want to relive the experience of their gaming hay day.

Dragon Strike

Dragon Strike Bx Art - Image from
Dragon Strike is a little more on the nose.  This game came out in 1993 and was TSRs attempt to bring people into the hobby (read bring people into playing Dungeons and Dragons).  It was designed as an entry level game to get a younger audience interested into Fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons.  TSR had the full force of its machine behind this game.  First, the game was packaged with a VHS that boasts that it is made in "Hyper Reality", which basically means they hired some oiled up "actors" and set them up on a green screen and put some animation behind them.  This was meant to demonstrate how a game of dragonstrike should run, and how the roles of the characters could be taken on.  TSR also employed marvel comics to create a one issue comic to promote the game.  Also the adverts for the game were extensive in the nerd culture of the time, including in comics etc. . .   And don't forget the obligatory Saturday morning cartoon commercial.

Of course like all great obscure videos you can find the "Hyper Reality" video on youtube now for your enjoyment

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Marvel Comics Dragon Strike one shot issue 

The setup is not unlike HeroQuest.  The players take on the role of a Warrior, a Wizard, an Elf, a Thief, or a Dwarf as they take on monsters on boards that are set up by a player who plays the role of the dungeon master and controls the monsters of the game. These monsters include Dragons, A Scorpion Monster, Skeletons, and orcs.  The setup and feel is very reminiscent of HeroQuest - with the biggest difference being that there is a timer for the game.  After a number of rounds the Dragon will fly in and attack the players.  This helps speed the game along for the players.

This game mechanics was an extremely simplified version of the basic Dungeons and Dragons rules.  It used a D12, D10 and D8 that were color coded.  Each characters card had a different colored die next to the different abilities,  When the player wanted to use that ability, they simply had to find the die that corresponded to the color next to that ability.

Thematically it was very generic fantasy - The video that is included leads off with a very medieval esq castle with a jolly king having a feast.  It is not really an established Dungeons and Dragons.  Actually that is one of the odd things about this game.  They game is very obviously an entry point into D and D, but the game is called Dragon Strike.  No where on the cover of the box do the words "Dungeons and Dragons" appear.  The only thing that connect the two products is the dragon in the logo is the same dragon that was appearing on the basic D and D sets at the time.  At the bottom of the box it actually said it was part of "the Adventurevision Game Series," which doesn't appear to have actually become a thing after this, but this kind of thing was not uncommon for TSR at the time.


While this is a game that I have pined after ever since I remember seeing the commercials on TV, I can't say the game itself has left much of a legacy.  It was mildly successful and a few years after HeroQuest, so it is not remembered quite so fondly.  Of the four games I am talking about in this post this is the one you find most inexpensively.  Of course Dungeons and Dragons and the TSR properties have a huge legacy- this is a product that is part of that family, so the legacy is pretty astounding if you include that. 

Key to the Kingdom

Key to the Kingdom Box Art - Image taken from
When Golden puts out a fantasy themed game you know there is something to the fantasy trend.  Yes that "Golden" the same company that put out golden books.  That is who put out "Key to the Kingdom." in 1990.  While still very much a fantasy game that could lead to role playing it takes a slightly different track.  There are fewer miniatures, actually just identical player pieces and a "Demon King" miniature.  The game is also competitive as opposed to the collaborative play of the other games. Key to the Kingdom uses 8 sided dice, and the players have equipment cards that they will used to defeat monsters or traps that they meet along the way.  While we are discussing "The Way" the pieces are move around on a board that appears to be something out of a traditional board game.  There are squares and players move their piece along the paths not unlike you would in candy land.  Then it gets interesting.

There are 6 parts of the board.  there are the front two panels, then it opens out into 4 more panels.  The board opens as players move their characters to one of two portals.  Characters who have not reached the portal have 3 turns to do so.   It is a fascinating point of game play.  It literally turns the game upside down.  This throws kinks into the other players plans, as you are all looking to find the Key to the Kingdom, but you still have to escape the board with the key before you win. 

This is a fantasy trope that is not often picked up on for board games.  the idea of planes, or dimension travel.  It is worked right into the mechanics, an it is exciting!

This game is hard pin down.  It walks a line of traditional board game and thematic fantasy game.  There are elements of role playing like equipment management and fighting monsters, but it doesn't feel as ingrained on the experience as some of the others do.  Still this is a game that I hear people talk about how it was their first experience with fantasy gaming and later got them excited about trying RPGs.  It is also a great example of fun thematic game design.


Dark World

Dark World Box Art - Image taken from
Dark World was put out in the US by Mattel in 1992.  It seems like a direct response to the success of Heroquest.  It feels as if tries very hard to be more than HeroQuest in a set of overproduced components. This game continues the thematic journey of dungeon crawler complete with a girded dungeon board, hero and monstrous miniatures, and dice with odd symbols on them.  Similar to hero quest and dragon strike one player, called the "Evil Lord" plays the role of the monsters.  That part is simple, but this game offers an oddity.  It is extremely overproduced.

The game is full of moving parts.  There are physical walls that are propped up on the board that are complete with hinged doors and secret passage ways.  There are treasure chests that open to reveal weapons than can be added to the hands of the players miniatures to increase their ability.  The end of the board represents the throne of the evil lord where he waits for the intrepid adventurers ready to attack.  Speaking of heroes, their hit points are kept very similarly to how heroclix work.  The base of the miniature twists to act as a counter for hit points.  One of the strangest components of the game is a piece that sets up initiative order.  It is a plastic sword with 4 colored beads inside.  you shake it - then resolve turn order by moving the characters based on the order in which the beads line up in the sword.  It is innovative for sure, if not a little odd.  Under all of the moving parts however are extremely simple mechanics that do not benefit from the extra plastic included with the game.  The characters move very linearly around that girded board.   Once doors are open they are open and have no game effect.  While it looks great it doesn't seem to add to the mechanics.

There is, however something to be said about immersion, and the immersion factor of the production of this game.  These days it is nothing for D&D players to spend thousands of dollars on Dwarven Forge components to create the very experience that this game created out of the box.  So, it is relevant to the conversations.  Like the other games Dark World offered many a kid in the 90s an exciting entry point into role playing games.  It had all of the thematic action that a 90s kid could want.  In a very elaborate package.

There were several expansions put out for this game over the next few years.  While the game now has a cult following it did not have the popularity of staying power that heroquest has had.  The pure amount of components made it slightly more difficult to allow it to stay together, so now finding complete copies is harder.  It was a game that tried very hard - and it shows with the sheer amount of components.             

Other Thematic Games 

Image taken from
This era was rife with the big companies putting out very thematic games.  While the games above were all firmly rooted in fantasy themes, there were other themes that were jumped on as well.  All of these could easily have led to more in depth gaming.

I mentioned Battle Masters above, this game was all in fantasy war gaming.  It was a great way to get your feet wet into that style of game.  It was also very large and took up a lot of floor space as it had a 5ft X 5ft battle grid to lay out.

Image taken from
Omega Virus was a sci-fi themed game that dealt with a space station that was taken over by a bad mouthed computer virus.  this was in the hay day of electronic games.  There was a base in the center that codes would be typed into and the virus would talk to you and tell you what is happening as you entered different rooms of the space station.  it was a little component heavy with key cards and droids, but for the most part it was quite fun.

Image taken from

Space Crusade was another games workshop property that Milton Bradley brought to market.  This time they were bring the world of warhammer 40K to a broader audience.  This did not last quite as long as the HeroQuest success, but all the same it was a fin gateway into another type of gaming.

Image taken from

HeroScape is a game that came out a little later.  It ihit in the early 2000s.  It was highly produced with interlocking terain and was more of a skirmish game than a RPG.  It was produced by MB and it had a very similar dice system to heroquest.  I always felt it a kind of a distant cousin to that game.  It lasted for about 8 years on the shelves to varying success with lots of expansions and new master sets available. 

These kinds of games still come around from time to time, but most of them are now produced by companies that produce specialized games, and there are fewer thematic games sold at the big box stores (although that is beginning to change as the game specialized game industry begins to become more mainstream).  Games like Decent by Fantasy Flight games seem like a direct relation to these games.  These newer games owe a lot to these games that made their way into the game aisle back int he 90s.  

These 90s gateway games informed a generation who would later become gamers.  They would inspired them to continue telling stories, and to find the next game when they outgrew this one.  They would lead these gamers to find Dungeons and Dragons, or WarHammer or the Star Wars RPG or some other game that would lead them to the next.  It is an important part of the history of the hobby, and are still really fun to play now if you can find them!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tom Baker and the Mortality of Heroes

When I was young the Doctor was my hero.  Not just any Doctor but Tom Baker as the Doctor. There was something soothing about his melodic tones.  Something that reminded me that everything would be all right.  He was in the universe defeating the monsters and the injustice so that I didn't have to.  He inspired me to be strange and goofy if I wanted to, but also reminded me that I could be serious too.  He convinced me that I should keep full pockets of trinkets because you never know when you might need one of them.  He taught me how to make an entrance at the most inopportune time.  He taught me there was a time to fight for what you believe in, but also to make the best decisions I could while doing it.  He taught me all of that in season 12.
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The Fourth Doctor - Image Copyright BBC

Tom Baker defined the role of the Doctor in my mind when I was very young.  He defined it in season 12. That is a near perfect season of the show.  For me it is what I judge all other seasons against, and to be honest, all other actors who are in the role.

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the Directors Cut of "Genesis of the Daleks" at my local theater.  The cut was put together in 1975 and it is rough, the edits seem hastily put together, incidental music is cut off, and the story is mostly able to be followed.  That said it did take a story that is nearly 3 hours long and condense it down to 90 minutes, which is no simple feat.  Its not perfect, but it was super fun to see it on a big screen.  Its great that we live in a time that you can go to a theater and see a 43 year old Doctor Who serial presented in a way that hadn't been seen in some time.

The thing that has been bothering me though, is an interview with Tom Baker at the end of the production.  We get the opportunity to see Tom be candid about the show, people involved in it, and more importantly, his mortality.

Tom drives home many of the answers to the interviewers questions with fun anecdotes from when he got the job and how the people around him reacted.  He looks back at how much life he had - how exciting it was to be him at that very moment.  He also mentioned mistakes he made toward the end of his tenure as the Doctor.  It is clear he has thought a lot about his time on the show quite a lot over the last 43 years.

And that brings me to his thoughts on his own mortality.  This is hard to watch.  Tom is well into his 80s at this point, so he is not young.  He knows this.  It seems to be a part of his whole being when he speaks.  It feels like he is jumping back in to the Doctor Who world long enough to get his feet wet and to enjoy some of that youthful exuberance that he once had.  He has been pounding out the Audio Adventures with Big Finish over the last several years, and of course he made that beloved appearance in the day of the Doctor -

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Tom Baker as The Fourth Doctor in the recent
release of Shada- Image Copyright BBC
Taking a step back and thinking about a much younger version of myself watching and re watching VHS tapes that were recorded off of our local PBS station.  I watched Tom Baker story after story, week after week,  fight tyranny and stand of what what was right.  I realized then (and now) that these are stories, but it doesn't change the fact that it is difficult watching this fictionalized hero that walks in eternity age. and watch him be tragically aware of this own mortality.

Tom Baker defines so much of my character.  The time I spent watching his adventures as a child and into adulthood is immeasurable.  I was inspired by him.  I continue to be a fan of Doctor Who, in no small part, because of his contribution to the show.  So much of what I latched on to comes from him.

Don't get me wrong, I think we have a lot more Tom Baker to come. But it is difficult to watch your childhood hero be so aware of his mortality, but I know there is a small part of me that is so heavily inspired by the man.  I will always appreciate him for that!     


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Overstreet: The Geeky Secret of My Hometown!

Last week I wrote about the show I am helping to put on in my home town. This week I want to talk a little bit about the geeky secret of Cleveland, TN.

I live in a town called Cleveland, TN.  Its small and quaint, but it has a strange connection to geek culture that most people don’t know.  Cleveland, TN is the birthplace of the Overstreet Comic Book Price guide.  That's right, Robert Overstreet created the standard price guide for comic books right here in my home town.  Its one of those odd little facts that older men tell you when they hear you like comic books. “Oh well you probably know about Bob Overstreet” they say. They would tell me stories about how he used to ship the the price guide out from the company he worked at and get a laugh out of it.  That is when I get to tell them the story that I am going to tell you, dear reader, right now.

Back in 92, the comic book boom was in full force.  This is the era when comic companies were printing things like “Instant collector item” right on their books, and putting things in poly bags to entice people who thought they could make a buck.  My 12 year old self was into the comic boom deep.  My dad, my uncle, my brother, and myself would each get our pull folders and drive all over the place looking for back issues.  If we heard there was place that had comics, we went.

It was during this time that I suspect an old man said to my day, “Oh you like comics huh, well you probably know about Bob Overstreet”  I don’t think he did, I mean We had the guides but I don’t think he knew he lived here.  My dad is never one to be afraid of a phone call so he did what my dad does, he looked Robert Overstreet up in the phone book. . .and he was listed!  There he was in the white pages, the creator of the Overstreet price guide.  His number was just there.
Mr Overstreet was happy to sign our book!

Let me break in here to put things in perspective, For me Robert Overstreet had his name on a book.  This was fame to me.  I had never been to a convention, I didn't know this was normal.  Someone like this seemed like they were above humanity. . . (I was a very sheltered child).  

My dad called him.  Had a nice conversation with him, and we were invited over to his house.  Just like that.  We set a time, It was a Tuesday if I recall.  When the day approached my dad, my uncle, my brother, and myself loaded into the car to go to the Overstreet house.  It was a big house, I can’t remember where it was in town now, but I remember it was in a nicer part of town.  The house looked like a castle, It had a spiral staircase and everything.  

As we got there we were greeted by him and his wife, they were incredibly nice, they brought us in and took us to the living room, where we got to ask him questions.  We talked about Comics, and artists and the history of comics.  It was a great time.  Then he did something amazing, he started pulling out his collection.  Amazing Fantasy 15, Fantastic Four 1, He just kept showing us these comics that we would probably never see again (at least I thought so).  

After he showed us these books he took us upstairs (yes up the spiral staircase) and up stairs there was a long hall with odd paintings of the Salem witch trials.  To this day this still confuses me.  But then he opened a door and let us see a huge room that was just filled with long boxes.  This was a man where comics were his business.  He knew about them, he lived with them, and he loved them.
After this he signed our price guides and we left and it was a great experience.  A few months later we went back to the house for Halloween, because he told us he gave out comics for Halloween (the publishers send so many of them to him).  I think my brother and I both got archie books, but it was ok, it was from Robert Overstreet.

I think more recently Robert Overstreet, has moved out of Cleveland, from what I gather, he does still work on the guide (though he has long since sold it off).  During the 80's and even early 90's Cleveland was a hotbed for collectors, there were shows going on all the time.  We had a regional distributor near by, and there were a really hoping comic book shops all over the region.  Then it just kind of fizzed out, but I think a lot of that energy can be given credited with The Overstreet price guide.

So that is Cleveland Tennessee’s connection with geek culture.  Does your city have a secret connection to geek culture?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Is the Doctor a good man? Taking a look at morality in the Doctor Who Universe

In the latest episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor asked Clara a simple question.  He asked “Am I a good man?” He asked the question in a way that was almost challenging the audience to answer the question as well as Clara.  He asked us to reach back over the last 50 years and judge the character of the Doctor.  Well. . .maybe I am reading a little too much into that, but I did begin to think about it.  The morality of the Doctor is something that has always intrigued me.

On the Surface the Doctor is a hero, and of course we relate heroes to good people.  People who fight for truth, justice . . .and the way of the people they are fighting for.  A hero is judged in the context of their own society.  Thus I may think of a hero or a good man differently than say someone from England.  We all have a different cultural definition of morality, and thus so should the Doctor and the universe he lives in.

The question of morality and the Doctor is not a new one.  Back in the 70s when the Doctor as traveling with Sarah Jane Smith, he reminded her that he was different.  He didn’t percive things the same way she did. . .He walks in eternity  and is NOT human.   So should we judge if he is a good man on the scale of human morality.  In the same episode (Pyramids of Mars, 1975) the doctor is faced with Sutekh the Destroyer, who for all intents and purposes is an evil entity that is above humanity and even above Timelords (or so he believes).  Sutekh tells the Doctor that “Your [the doctor] evil is my [sutekh’s] good.” This sets a landscape of the lack of a single moral code within the universe, and also tells us a little more about the doctor, because as he feels he is above humanity he is still willing to fight for it.

And Check out this out at about 4:48

The Doctor wants to be good.  He wants to do the right thing, but he is torn.  He finds himself with knowledge that does not always allow his let him follow the moral code that many of his companions have, but he does try to give the appearance of holding to that code.  Many times that is by surrounding himself with companions who have no problem being morally gray.  The best
Ace isn't afraid to use a weapon! 
example of this is Ace.  At first the Doctor and Ace seem to have a typical companion/ doctor relationship, but while the doctor objects to her more violent ways he rarely does anything about it.  Even to the point where he begins to anticipate that she is carrying explosives.  She become useful to him, a means to an end to do the things he can’t.  this continues on into the virgin new adventure novels.  At this point he is becoming something more than a hero.  He no longer believes a human moral code is any code to live a life.  This is where it becomes apparent that the doctor is really only interested in the greater good.  He has to be the champion of time he finds himself on a different level battling beings that have different scales by which they weigh morality.  These are Beings like Cthulu, or the Celestial toy maker, and the eternals. He begins to place himself on their scale of morality.

The cause of the greater good is something that  has resonated throughout the series.  Often

times the doctor is fighting against monsters who for all intents and purposes know no better or who are doing what they feel is right.  The cybermen are a great example.  They felt (well not feel so much) they thought that they were doing a service to humanity by coming to convert them.  They would make them better, stronger.  Of course the Doctor saw it as a violation of humanities rights.  The doctor chose a side that most resembled his moral code.  He had spent time with humans at this point and decided that they were worth fighting for.

These concepts lead me to think about the other side. in season 5 of the new series we see the fight against the doctor at the pandorica, where all of the monsters ganged up on the doctor because he was their monster.  He was charged with crimes against the daleks the cybermen and any number of other races.  This, of course, is because he broke their moral code.  So if you asked a dalek if the Doctor was a good man it may first say “WHAT IS GOOD” but in the end it would communicate the doctor is the opposite of what it stands for, because they have a code that they relate to . . . and that code is Evil.  Or at least it is to us.

There may be a chance to ask an interesting question here though.  Why does the doctor try so hard to meet the human moral code.  Why does he want clara to answer this question?  For this, we can take a several lines of thinking.  First, he is with humans quite a bit, so perhaps it has just been easy to adapt to that for him.  Next we could look at time lord society and I think it would be safe to imagine that the their society isn’t COMPLETELY dissimilar to ours.  Perhaps there is a prevailing moral code that goes around the universe that mirrors ours.  Or maybe it can be answered by the TV movie. . . perhaps the Doctor really is half human - and so he battles between this high flying universal code of morality and the deep humanity that he has running through his blood.

Regardless of what we think I have a feeling that question is going to strive to be answered over the coming season, and I think it will be fun to see how it plays out.  In the end the thing to remember is that the Doctor is an alien!  While he looks like us, and sometimes acts like us, he is not human (unless of course you think he is) and therefore it is hard to judge him against our idea of what a “good man” is or what a hero is.  Does he usually make the choice that we would make, yeah usually, but not always.  Sometimes he comes from the side and chooses the greater good, because he is on a higher level.  He believes at his core that sacrifice a few for the many is probably OK.  He has made himself an equal of osirens, and old gods, and guardians, and eternals.  He can’t be expected to share our morality!

What do you think?  Is the doctor a good man, am I over thinking morality in a fictional universe.  Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cleveland Geekster and doing things!

I’ve been putting this post off for long enough.  I have been quiet for a while on this blog, but rest assured I have not been idle!  On October 4th exactly one month from today some friends and I are trying something new.  We are putting on a toy and comic show in Cleveland TN.  I have been vending at shows since 2011, and this has been something I have wanted to bring to my town since then.

The town I live in, Cleveland TN, is smallish. there is, however, a huge environment of collectors, pop culture addicts and comic shops but there are no local events for these people go to.  We have to go the surrounding bigger cities for even small shows.  I find this sad for the city that brought us the Overstreet Comic book price guide, and used to have such a vibrant community of collectors.  To my knowledge there hasn’t been a collectors show here in at least 10 years. It has probably been even longer.

In the last few years that I have been vending at shows I have watched carefully, asked questions, and made friends.  This has always been something I have wanted to do and here it is.  We are a month out from the (hopefully) FIRST ANNUAL CLEVELAND GEEKSTER toy and comic show!  While we have been planning this for the last several months, we still have a lot to do, but to this point it has been a great journey.  There is a lot that goes into an event like this. We have gotten some great vendors from the region and we should have a great set of stuff to look through.

This event that is something that is important to me for several reasons. As I have said I wanted to be involved with bringing an event like this in Cleveland because I love this town and I love this stuff.  But more importantly it is something I am doing.  At the end of the day I will be able to say I was involved with that event.  I was with it from its infancy as an idea and saw it through to fruition.  I'm excited to do that.  This is something I have thought a lot about lately.  most of my life I have had ideas, but I never acted on them.  This year I have had the opportunity to act on these ideas in a way I never have had the chance to do before.  That is the other reason I am excited!

I hope to add some updated information as we continue through the process, as well as get some images up during the event.  Until then, I would encourage everyone who is interested to check out our facebook page at and also our website at, there you can find information about the show, and the vendors who have signed on.

In the comments let me know about something you have planned and saw it through, and how that made you feel. . . Or just tell me a great story about going to a toy and comic show!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Breaking the Comfort Zone - The New Ms. Marvel

It is rare that I go out of my comfort zone and try something new, especially where comics, movies, and fiction in general are concerned.  There is a set of things I go for.  I love Laser guns,  I love predictable cliche stories, and generally I like Doctor Who (but I think this goes without saying).  When I do go out of that comfort zone I usually come back with a respect but not a . . . Can't wait for the next one. . . "

But this week I tried something new.

Ms, Marvel #1 (Marvel Comics)
I have been catching articles for the last few months about the new Ms. Marvel that Marvel is bringing out.  The articles kept talking about how groundbreaking it will be not just for super hero stories but for comics in general.  It was being compared to those early issues of spiderman, you know back when Peter Parker was going through the angst of high school.  Its a story we all know.  The twist is that the main character is a young muslim girl who is making her way through high school in New Jersey while being an uber fan girl of the actual heroes especially Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers).

I had to give it a try.  I'm going into this fresh in several ways.  1) I am not up to date on the Marvel Universe.  I pretty much stay in the silver age.  2) I am not up to date on previous Carol Danvers versions of Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel.  3) I am ashamed to say it but I don't keep up with many female characters.  Its not for any reason but none of them have piqued my interest to this point.

I looked it up on comixology and downloaded it and it is worth the hype.  The Art reminds me of so many of the independents that line the aisles at Heroes Con.  It doesn't have the perfect lines that I have become used to in the modern marvel age of comics.  It doesn't feel so mechanical.  Actually it looks and feels very human!  I am only familiar with Adrian Alphona's previous work in passing.  I have seen his art in Runaways and it was good but beyond that I have not really paid attention.  But I am glad I picked this up as now I am a fan!
Some of Alphona's art from Ms. Marvel #1 (Marvel Comics)

Of course the art it part of the whole.  G. Willow Wilson is the writer
of this line.  While the story is just starting and we haven't even seen what the our hero, Kamala Khan, can do yet, we do get a sense of where it is going.  This story is going to deal with being a teenager in many of the same ways that Peter Parker dealt with it, but at the same time we are going to find the cultural ramifications that Kamala will deal with both in society and with her family all the while dealing with super powers.

This new Ms. Marvel is a part of Marvels move to strive to push strong female characters.  I have to say I am excited to see where this is going.  this is a strong book and I will come back.  Hopefully it will break me out of my comfort zone and let me explore lots of other good comics that are out there.

If you get a chance to pick this book up I recommend you do it.  Even if this book is not the kind of thing you would pick up I think it is well worth it!  Take the time to check it out.

What are some comics that may have been out of your norm but you picked them up anyway . . . and maybe even enjoyed them.  I would love to hear some suggestions of what to pick up next.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Kickstart This: On a Roll: Level Up your RPG

Over the past few months I have been jumping into some kickstarter projects.  I jumped in on the Cool and Collected Magazine project and my friend Scott Fogg's Comic project Phileas Reid Knows We're Not Alone.  I have enjoyed sponsoring dreams.  In the case of Scott and his project is kind of local and it is always nice to help out locals.  It helps that his comic also is amazing!

Another Kick Starter I am very excited about is another local friend of mine. Ryan Faricelli is putting together a book called "On a Roll: Level Up Your RPG"  in which he is imparting tips and tricks on playing and running RPGs.  The book will cover both the tabletop and LARP verity of games.  Ryan has been playing these sorts of games for over 25 years and I think if this is something you are interested in this will be a great project to back.  I think it will be especially good if you are new to the hobby or want to learn a little bit about it.

Check out the Kickstarter Page HERE and you can watch the video below!

Playing these kinds of games is something I love but unfortunately I don't get the chance to play like I was once able to.  I am looking forward to reading Ryan's thoughts on the subject.  

Are there any Kickstarter projects you are looking or have already backed.  I would love to know what some of you are looking at!