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 facebook.com/ClevelandGeekster and also our website at clevelandgeekster.com, 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!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 in Review

2013 wasn't quite the year I had wanted it to be.  Instead of the year of doing I had anticipated this time last year, it was a year of learning.  I'm ok with this as it made it equally as important to me.

2013 had a good lead in from 2012 being a year full of projects.  Toward the end of 2012 I had began planning my comic and doing some preparation for doing it.  Practicing, learning how to set up pages, learning how to scan pages, learning how to decently ink.  All of these things made up a huge part of 2013.  These processes taught me more than the skill of comic making though.  Through the practice I learned to sit back and make a good product instead of just putting it out.  I learned how to do things in processes.  I have, in the past, been one who just wants something finished with.  I learned to control myself (with the help of some great friends) and let some ideas simmer and develop.  While I am still not one for waiting too long and just sitting on an idea until it is dead, sometimes something you are making just isn't cooked through yet.  Of course you can see the beginning of the comic here

After Twistoid I only need one more
figure to complete my collection.
While the comic has taken up a large part of my year its not the only thing I have done.  I have continued doing toy shows, although I have done quite a few less this year.  We did three shows this year to some success.  Through this though, I have focused my collecting a bit.  I am literally one figure away from finishing my Masters of the Universe figure collection, and I think I might actually have one of those coming.  I have found other great things to add to my collection as well, but I have also cut it back to make it more focused.  I am cutting out the clutter.

A few of the Thor issues I have gotten this year while building the collection!
 As for collections I have also had the opportunity to flesh out my Thor collection.  I have
been slowly completing a collection that my dad started years ago.  I am down to needing 56 issues to complete the original run of Thor comics!  It has been a really exciting adventure to go on.  I've learned a lot about an scene I have really been away from for some time!  I am really excited about getting even closer to finishing this collection in 2014.

Me on my sweet ride while
my leg was broken!
In the middle of the year I had a few bad experiences.  Now the great things about bad experiences is that you learn how to become stronger through them.  One of the big things is that I broke a leg.  Now, this seems kind of menial as people break legs all the time.  Mine wasn't really that bad, but it helped me learn to let go and realize some things will go on even if I'm not around.  I was out of work for 2 weeks and off my leg for 6.  I learned to depend on people.  We stayed at my in laws or my parrents house for most of that time and they all helped me get through it.  I have to admit they were saints because I was a bear during most of the time!  It was a dark period.

During that time Timegate occurred.  Without me.  For those of you who don't know Timegate is an annual Doctor Who and Stargate convention that happens over memorial day weekend.  I am the co-director of the the Doctor Who Track.  It was really tough for me to miss.  I got the play by play and of course I took part in the planning.  But I was super excited about this year and I had to miss it due to my leg.  But I powered through and now I have this year to look forward to.

After this I did get to go to heroes again this year.  and I traversed it with a broken leg.  Its not something I would want to do again, but I am glad my wife encouraged me to go!  It was another great year!

2013 was kind of a dead year for the New Monster Project, which is a pop culture, geekery, video group that I am involved with.  We brought on a new member and have been planning a fairly major relaunch that involves my comic, videos, and even some podcasts.  I'm pretty excited about where we will be going over the next year.

 In 2013 I continued working on "The Oncoming Storm" podcast, which is a Doctor Who Spinoff media podcast.  Because of this I have read lots of books, comics, and ebooks, and listened to lots of audios.  Actually I would say I have read more this year that I have in any other year.  I'm proud of that, I'm really happy that I have been able to be a part of that podcast!

Speaking of Doctor Who I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that this was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and while I am not directly involved with Doctor Who, anyone who reads this blog will know it is a huge part of my life.  So the 50th anniversary was  a big deal.  It was a great time to reflect on the show that I love and get a lot of new insight on it.  and through the process I may have even become a little more tolerant of new fans, which an't be a bad thing, can it?

Looking back on all of these thing I see that it probably has been a busier year than I really thought it was.  All in all its been another Whirlwind of a year.  How was your 2013.