Back From PAX

I got back from Seattle on Tuesday after having attend the four day Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). I thought I might share with you a few of the highlights from my trip.

The Tri-Wiard Drinking Tournament happens the night before PAX for the last few years. It consists of Harry Potter fans getting dressed up and going bar hopping all over Capitol Hill and challenging each other with drinks or shots. Normally one drink or shot per bar and there are about 5 bars on the route.

My wife, Hannah, really embraced her inner Potter and dressed up for the part. Our good friend Lyle was with us and to make sure we didn’t feel left out, Hannah made each of us wands to carry around.

IMG_3897

Now I am not much of a drinker. For the most part I sipped on soda, smoked one of my cigars and waved my wand in the faces of passers by while Lyle and Hannah enjoyed the drinking challenges. We even saw a couple get engaged.

[youtube http://youtu.be/JqwyuuDqbSI]

Along with meeting some really cool people and just over all having a good time exploring Capital Hill. Hannah also made some Harry Potter Themed Dice bags that could be auctioned off for charity.

Harry Potter dice Bags

Gabe & Tycho, as interviewed by Robert Khoo, was a great experience for me. This took place inside the Paramount Theater. Gabe & Tycho are the artist and writer behind the Penny Arcade comic and it was very interesting to hear how Penny Arcade started and how the two deal with the success and money. They Both seem like really down to earth guys. It was a talk that I learned a lot from.

We got to try out the Oculus Rift. This device is everything everyone says it is. It’s a pretty incredible experience. It was also a pain in the ass to demo. The line for the booth was always capped way to short which is a result of poor booth planning by my estimation. Perhaps they just didn’t expect it to be as popular as it was. Lyle and I walked away from this demo talking about how the device could also be used for one’s work environment and not just entertainment.

Author Patrick Rothfuss, gave a talk. A rather funny talk. As did writer and artist Scott Kurtz. Both were funny and entertaining and I came away feeling like I learned something.

Hannah and I got to spend a little time away from PAX too. She took me to Pike Place Market. A place I had never been to during the day. Any time in the past I had been there it was after dark and I was looking some place to eat. This was the first time I was there during the day with all the tourists and it was great. I am really glad we got to do that together.

Lastly I want share with you a quick one minute video I made from the trip. Enjoy.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23HBW3c2vk0&feature=youtu.be]

G.I. Joe and the Transformers Review Issue 3: Ashes, Ashes…

In the last issue of the Transformers, Megatron had gone a little crazy trying to live in a world without his greatest rival, Optimus Prime, then killed himself. I imagine this will help Shockwave’s plans with Power Station Alpha. Lets find out! But first we should check out this cover art.

GI-Joe-Transformers-3-Youseph

This black cover shows the faces of Shockwave, Dr. Mindbender, Hawk, Serpentor, The Baroness, Omega Supreme, Dirge, and I believe Goldbug looking at an exploding earth. With the exception of Shockwave, the characters have shocked expressions on their faces. Shockwave is depicted here with two hands as apposed to just his one actual hand. The cover is pretty well detailed and I might say impressive as it is nice to see such detailed faces of these characters.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-cover-

The Decepticon, Shockwave has plans for Power Station Alpha. He shows a video of his plan that displays how Power Station Alpha will be used to take all the energy stored within the earth and send it to Cybertron. This will result in earth being nothing but a lifeless fireball floating out in space.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-earth

After Shockwave completes showing his plan, Cobra arrives outside of their new base. The two groups team up to use Alpha to their mutual benefits, but both groups are planning to betray one another.

Shockwave has Serpentor and cobra attack the Autobots at the Ark with the purpose of retrieving a generator the Decepticons need to make adjustments to Power Station Alpha. Dirge goes with Cobra, while Doctor Mindbender stays back with the Decepticons.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-mindbender

Back at Fort Lewis in Seattle, G.B. Blackrock is talking with Crankcase and Mainframe. trying to explain to them that they blew up an actually alien when they killed Bumblebee and that he was one of the good guys. Mainframe believes it is possible to repair Bumblebee.

At the Ark, the heroic Autobots are taking part in Optimus Prime’s Funeral. Omega Supreme vows to protect the Arks and Autobots with all he’s got.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-primeomega

In Washington, (There is a lot going on here.) The Baroness and Senator Barbara Larkin meet secretly. Larkin lets the Baroness know she does not like the way Cobra handled the Alpha situation. That Alpha’s construction records are being examined. The details of which will ruin Larkin. The Baroness reminds Larkin that she knew the risks before getting involved. The meeting was observed and photographed and later shown to Hawk who feels betrayed by his love interest, Larkin.

Back at the Ark, Cobra’s air fleet, along with Dirge fire upon Omega Supreme who, of course, fights back with devastating effect. Serpentor and Dirge both hold back. Dirge, because he does not much care if Cobra gets destroyed and Serpentor just due to being a coward. Eventually more Autobots enter the battle. Dirge and Serpentor taunt each other into the fight.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-omega-attak

At the Decepticon Base, Doctor Mindbendor is being given a tour by Bombshell, while at the same time a Doctor McGrath is experimenting on one of Bombshell’s cerebroshells that was recently removed from the head of Anthony Duranti.This poking and prodding of the cerebroshell causes Bombshell to go spastic uncontrollably. Mindbender sees this as a possible weakness and is very interested.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-bombshell

At Fort Lewis, in Seattle, Washington, Mainframe and Crankcase have successfully repaired Bumblebee’s core processor and speech capabilities. Bumblebee becomes aware of the fact he has no body.

Hawk, who is heartbroken, confronts Larkin at her hotel regarding her dealings with Cobra. This does not go well and Hawk wont even let her explain.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-hawklarkin

Back at the Ark and the on going battle, Dirge preps to fire at Omega Supreme. Serpentor is able to remotely jam his gun. This causes Dirge to explode from the backfire. Serpentor uses this as an “Act of good faith” and is able to end the battle with the Autobots.

Later, Hawk is drinking because he is sad over Larkin. He then gets a phone call from, I think Crankcase and Mainframe. They explain everything to him. Hawk then berates himself for his “Shoot first” actions earlier and orders the full force of the Joe’s to the ark to help defend it.

At Decepticon HQ, the sound of Alpha launching into space awakens Doctor Mindbender. He comes to the realization that the Decepticons have explicitly betrayed Cobra, He contacts Serpentor with the news. Serpentor uses this information, that the Decepticons are going to destroy earth, to create an alliance with the Autobots. The Joe’s also join the team up.

GI-Joe-Transformers-issue-3-alpha

My Thoughts On This Issue

This comic book was out at the same time as the original cartoon movie of the Transformers where Optimus Prime died. I can’t help but think his death in the comics was a means to just try and keep the cartoon and comic book somewhat inline by eliminating a character that Hasbro had no plans of making more toys of or keeping him in the weekly cartoon.

The way Hawk treats Larkin in this issue just kills me. I see this kind of bullshit reaction in all kinds of bad TV and movies. Nothing pulls me out of a story more then an unrealistic reaction to a personal situation. No one I know acts this way when something personal like that happens to them. It’s just so hard to swallow. I would really questions Hawk’s ability to lead the G.I. Joe’s if he was reacting like this.

I really like crossover and team up books, but there is a lot going on in this one. Honestly, it’s almost to much. More than I wrote above. But the nostalgia of seeing these characters together is still cool, even if at this point I think the story is a bit week. One more issue to go and will see the end of this crossover.

No New Ads This Issue

Pictures From IDW’s Transformers Contest

Youseph-Gudio-Runabout
Signed Guido Guidi Drawing of Runabout

Being a Transformers fan and living in Juneau, Alaska is not easy. For starters, Juneau does not have a single comic book store. The geography around here is such that you can’t simply drive to a neighboring town to find one either. This makes it very difficult for me to get my hands on fresh comics.

I have been able to strike a deal with a nice little comic book shop in Bellingham, Washington called The Comics Place. These guys have been kind enough to hold issues of IDW’s ‘Transformers: Regeneration One’ (and soon the new X-Files comic) and ship them to me.

IDW-boxRecently, a local group of artists calling themselves Alaska Robotics, opened up a graphic novel and art gallery shop in down town Juneau. A good portion of this store is dedicated to graphic novels from DC, Marvel, Image, and IDW. When they first opened up, I asked one of the shop owners if they would be able to carry the Transformers books that IDW Publishing had been putting out. Alaska Robotics was all to happy to oblige me. I now visit their downtown store every Saturday to pick up the latest Transformers books that have come in. This includes the US and UK Transformers Classics, The new Transformers: Regeneration One Volume 1 and several books from Transformers: The IDW Collections.

IDW-Box-Open

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 13th, I was going through my RSS feeds when I happened upon a post from Seibertron.com titled: IDW Limited Collection Contest plus bonus prize for Seibertron.com members. The post on Seibertron told me about a contest that IDW Limited was holding for Transformers fans on Twitter.

The IDW Limited Twitter account has just posted a surprise contest for the upcoming weekend. All you have to do to enter is take a photo of your Transformers collection (toys, comics, bed sheets, whatever you’ve got) and tweet it to their account, for a chance to win some free IDW Transformers goodies!

The post went on to say that if you win the contest and are already a member of Seibertron.com (I am) you will also win a hardcover copy of “The Art of Transformers” book.

Some Awesome 'Beast Wars The Gathering' comics. 1-4
Some Awesome ‘Beast Wars The Gathering’ comics. 1-4

As a big time Transformers fan, I just had to give this a shot. I took to twitter and searched up the hash tag #IDWLTD which the Seibertron post said to use with your photo submissions. Right away my twitter window filled up with posts from people who already had a day head start on me submitting pictures. I clicked on a few of the submitted pics to see what others had been submitting. What I saw were living rooms, bedrooms, bookshelves, closets, and tables just packed with Transformer collections of true fans. Collections that made my personal collection of Transformers seem small and insignificant. Still, I felt I had to try and enter this contest. I mean, whats the worst that could happen?

Right off the bat, I noticed one thing about the pictures I was seeing on twitter. No one was including themselves in any of the photos they where submitting. I figured that was something I could do that would be different and maybe eye catching to the folks behind IDW Limited.

Spotlight Megatron Comic
Spotlight Megatron Comic

Back in February, I started posting reviews on my blog of the original 1980s Marvel Transformers comic books. Starting with Issue 1, I would take pictures of myself holding the comics and just trying my best to look cool while doing it. Along with my reviews, I would include pictures of the ads and write up any letters that fans wrote in about the comic book at the time. These where two things I didn’t see in any of the other Transformers comic book reviews I had read. So, I figured I would start by Tweeting to @IDWltd a picture of me holding issue 1 of Transformers. I followed that with a picture I took of my book shelf and my collection of Transformers books from IDW. Most of which, I bought from Alaska Robotics here in town. From that point on I just kept submitting pictures of myself holding up Transformers comics until I ran out of time late Sunday night. I had to stop for Game of Thrones you see.

The Art of IDW's Transformers
The Art of IDW’s Transformers

The next day, I was at work when my phone alerted me to a tweet from @IDWltd.

“We have another winner! He sent us 2 dozen poses.Youseph, you’re awesome!  @YousephTanha: Shockwave is scary.  pic.twitter.com/1ImDVrdb0T

I was so excited when I saw this, I could hardly stay in my chair. I replayed back right away thanking IDW for picking me. About a day later I got another tweet from IDW Limited with a tracking number of my prize.

Runabout by Guido
Runabout by Guido

It took thirteen days but the package made it. It was a long wait, but more than worth it. These guys really sent some amazing stuff. The first thing I noticed in the box was an IDW bookmark. It looks really cool. They also sent me the first four issues of ‘Transformers Beast Wars: The Gathering’. They also sent ‘Transformers Spotlight: Megatron’ comic. There was a hard back book called ‘The Art of IDW’s Transformers: Signed Edition’ that was not signed and  for some reason I found that very funny. The book is amazing though. Well constructed and the art inside by all the amazing artists was literally breath taking. Finally there was a drawing of Decepticon, Runabout signed by the artist, Guido Guidi.

I want to thank all the folks at IDW Limited for doing this great contest and for picking me as one of their winners. Being lucky enough to have been one of the winners of this contest has made it a little bit easier for me to be a Transformers fan in Juneau, Alaska. I not only have some great comics and art to enjoy, but I have met some cool Transformers fans from twitter.

The Missing iOS Camera App

Fast Camera
Fast Camera Icon

Recently, I returned from a vacation. While I was gone my brother-in-law Scott, showed me a great little iOS app called Fast Camera. This app has the two missing features I have been craving most from Apple’s iOS camera software.

  1. Timer. This camera software has a timer which allows you to set how long the camera waits before it starts takes a picture. This is great when you want to be involved in a group shot or any shot for that matter. Using this with an iPhone tripod mount and a small tripod stand was a perfect and cheap solution for getting myself into more photos.
  2. Continuous Shooting. The other great feature of Fast Camera is its ability to take pictures in rapid succession. This is a perfect tool to get the best action shot. This worked great for me while I was on Mt. Hood getting pictures of the family tubing down in the snow.

A couple of notes about continuous shooting. When set to full resolution the continuous shooting slows down. Still very fast in my opinion, but something to be aware of. Continuous shooting does not support HDR and that is understandable. That said, this app is well worth the $2.99 they are asking for.

More Than Meets The Eye!

When I was much younger my little brother Abe and I would wake up very early on Saturday mornings, when the house was still and our parents were asleep, so we could watch cartoons. We would tiptoe downstairs from our rooms and we would help each other get some breakfast cereal. Ghostbusters or S’Mores Crunch where our favorites at the time. We would then carefully walk out into the living room so we would not spill a drop of milk. In the living room we would sit on the floor with our cereal bowls in our laps and turn on the TV.

My brother and I would watched all kinds of cartoons on those Saturday mornings. He-Man, Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Dinoriders, Thundercats, Scooby Doo, Go-Bots, Voltron, The Smurfs, etc. But The Transformers were all I really wanted to watch. At the time it felt like a cartoon for big kids with all the transforming they did and adult issues they had to deal with like oil rigs and dams being under attack from the evil Decepticons.

When the Saturday morning Cartoons where over my brother and I would often play with our Legos, He-Man and the few Transformers toys we had in the living room. I always felt inspired after watching The Transformers to make some pretty fantastic things with our Lego blocks.

In grade school, I don’t remember a time when The Transformers wasn’t on TV. That didn’t happen until I was older. When I was younger, I could count on my mother to pack my school lunch in my red metal Transformers lunch box. I could count on the fact that when I came home from school and turned on the TV, I could catch an episode of The Transformers before my dad got home from work.

The Constructions along with their combined form of Devastator.

Between my younger brother and myself we had a couple of the transformers toys. My brother was a fan of the bad guys because he thought they looked cooler. I recall him having Galvatron and some of the Insecticons. I remember at one Christmas in the 80s we got the Constructicons which combined to form the mighty Devastator! I recall getting Ultra Magnus, and Cliffjumper, but past that my memory has faded somewhat. I know we both had other Transformers toys, but those memories are lost to time.
As I grew older, I continued to be a huge fan of The Transformers. I just wasn’t old enough to be able to afford the couple of toys or VHS tapes I would see randomly at K-mart or used stores. By then the time to acquire Transformers toys and other memorabilia was fading away fast for me. And I knew it. And it was sad.

Hasbro had stop producing new Transformers cartoons and toys. The Marvel comics also stopped and a whole generation of kids that grew up on this we’re left asking themselves, “What The Fuck?”.

At some point in my very early teenage years of life, I started to get a weekly five dollar allowance from my mom. At first I would spend the money on stuff like candy, or if I saved up, a CD. You know, things that didn’t really matter a whole lot. That is, until I walked into my first ever comic book store.

Stamp and Coin Place in Mt. Vernon, Washington

The Stamp & Coin Place in Mt. Vernon, Washington was a treasure trove of comics books, coins, baseball cards, football cards and stamps. When you walk into the store for the first time you are overcome by the smell of old paper. It was the smell of old comic books and cards. It’s quite overwhelming.

As you enter the store and immediately on your left was a rack of the latest comics that had come in. On the left and right side of of the new comics rack where boxes and boxes of old back issue comic books. These boxes were stacked on the floor and on tables. For a kid the sight is breathtaking and I think the first time I entered The Stamp & Coin Place, I just stood there for a moment taking it all in.

Once I caught my breath, I went over to the first box labeled “A”. I could tell the boxes were sorted alphabetically. I took the lid off the first long white box and started to finger my way through the mylar wrapped and boarded comics. I knew then that five dollars a week was not going to be enough and I would have to see if I could talk my mom into giving me a raise in my weekly allowance.

Marvel’s Transformers Comic Book #1. 1984

As I went through the boxes of comics I pulled out ones that looked cool to me. Some random Batman books, G.I. Joe, and Star Trek. But then I hit the ‘T’s and I thought to myself, could there be? My fingers began to fly through the books in the ‘T’ box. I was just over halfway through, my hope fading, when I saw it and I paused. I just stood there holding my breath. Then, I slowly pulled it out from the box to get a better look at the whole thing. It was the very first issue of Marvel Comic’s Transformers!

I just stood there holding it in my hands in total awe like I had just discovered the holy grail itself.

I know, right?

I knew right away that the other comic books I had pulled out would be going right back where they came from. This comic book had to me mine!

If my memory serves me correctly the price they had labeled on the mylar bag for this book was two or three dollars. I was able to pick up this first issue along with two or three more Transformers comic books. I can’t really recall which ones they were. I was so overwhelmed at the time that I was holding issue number one of the Transformers that I just couldn’t believe my luck.

That night I read through Transformers number one, slowly. Taking it all in and feeling the joy I had when I used to watch the show on Saturday mornings with my brother. Until I got my own job my brother and I would go down to the Stamp & Coin Place every Friday and pick up more comics with our five dollar allowance. After a few years I eventually bought the place out of every Transformers comic book they had. I was maybe 30 books shy of a complete set.

In The 1980s My Hero Was A Truck! (Optimus Prime)

Now as an adult, I have been lucky enough to afford the toys and DVDs. I have also recently been able to complete the original Marvel Transformers and comic book run that I was not able to as a kid. I finally got the Optimus Prime and Blaster actions figures I always wanted. I have the entire cartoon series on DVD that I hope one day to share with my kids.

The Transformers mean a lot to me and I hope that you will stick around for my next series of posts as talk about Transformers Comic Book Continuity, how you can tell the difference between first, second and third printings of a comic book. The difference between comics bought at a comic book shop or on a news stand. What is a comic book worth. How to properly mail comic books. What a CGC graded comic book is. And how to acquire the original 80 issues of Marvel Comic’s Transformers off of ebay.

I will also be reread the original transformers comic books, rewatching the original cartoon series and just geeking out on the stories and the memories they bring back. If you want to follow along with me you can pick up newer printings of the original comics and cartoon by following the links below.

Transformers Comics

Transformers TV Cartoon

October

The Juneau summer this year was not the warmest or the sunniest I have ever experienced since moving to Alaska. They all can’t be winners when you live in the middle of a rain forest.

As fall hits us with a shock the weather has turned cold and the air has become very dry. At the start of October people have had to start waking up earlier than normal to make sure their cars are defrosted and warmed up for the morning drive into work. Before the month was out we got our first real snow fall that dusted the landscape like sugar.

With all the recent cold weather, and the daily continuing loss of sunlight that comes with living this far north, we have had some bright spots too. Most notably is that during the daylight hours we do have they have been bright and sunny. Hannah and I have managed to go for some walks after work all bundled up and trying to soak up some of that natural vitamin D from the sun. We are lucky enough to live really close to a park with a lake, so its easy for us to walk out our front door and down to the lake where we walk the length of it and back.

October is also the month I was born in and Hannah put together a nice little party with some good friends. Some of which flew all the way in from southern Washington State. It turned out to be a great weekend that I don’t think I am going to ever forget.

Halloween is also in October, so of course we carved out some pumpkins and turned them into some great looking Jack-o-lanterns. My brother Abe came over and the three of us took to work on four pumpkins. This is the second or third time since I have lived up here that I recall it snowing when we set our Jack-o-lanterns outside.

Dead Or Alive

In 2001, I found myself living in Oak Harbor, Washington with a good friend and roommate, Brannon. We were just two poor guys simply working for the weekend and enjoy the time we had with our friends and playing music. We were each involved in our own band and both had a decent following for the town we lived in.

When we weren’t working or practicing music the two of us would watch movies a lot of the time. I could tell you a funny story of when we both saw ‘The Ring’ for the first time,

As you could imagine after a while our lives turned into a routine and got very dull because we were both so broke most of the time.

  1. Get up
  2. Go to work
  3. Come home
  4. Make dinner
  5. Watch a Movie
  6. Go to bed
  7. Repeat.

So what were two poor guys to in order to break up the monotony of our everyday lives? At some point in 2001, I got to play a copy of Dead or Alive 3 at a friends house and I absolutely fell in love with that game. Not since the original Quake had a video game gripped me so completely and took over my every free thought.

The game’s graphics were amazingly sharp. The fighting was lighting fast. The fastest I have seen in any video game ever or since. But most importantly it was fun. One didn’t need to know what every single button on the controller did to be able to control your character and win a game. Of course knowing what the buttons did does help, but a novice at the time could pick up a controller, quickly figure things out and win their first game.

Video games were often a topic of discussion between Brannon and I. He read issues of gaming magazines and I would read about games online. We would often talk about new games that were coming out or talk about game reviews each other had read.

So, it is understandable that by October/November of 2001 we were both lusting after an Xbox and the newly released Dead Or Alive 3. This was compounded by the fact that Blockbuster Video at the time was running a special. Something like, buy a Microsoft Xbox and get a second controller free, or something like that.

At the time, and still to this day, I have not been a fan of Microsoft. I was not sure how I was going to justify to myself buying a Microsoft console. It was not like Dead Or Alive 3 was available for the PlayStation 2. I did some more reading and learned that Microsoft was losing money on every Xbox unit they sold. That’s right. Microsoft was charging less for the Xbox console then it cost them to make it. So by buying an Xbox, Microsoft was not making any money off of me. So how were they making money? On the games. They sold developers tools for building games that would run on the Xbox and Microsoft made some money on every copy of Xbox games sold because they had been built using their tools. I had read that the developers of Dead Or Alive did not use Microsoft’s proprietary development tools to build the Dead Or Alive game. Rather, they used their own tools to make the game. This cut Microsoft out of any revenue from this game. In doing this, in buying a console and game that Microsoft would not benefit from, I felt a little less like a hypocrite for buying an Xbox and Dead Or Alive.

Back to the main story.

Together one Friday, Brannon and I pulled our limited resources together, drove to Blockbuster to purchased an Xbox with the extra free controller and a copy of Dead Or Alive 3. We brought the console home, hooked everything up and proceed to spend the whole weekend taking turns playing through story mode and playing against each other in this virtual hand to hand combat fighter. Save for driving out to Jack In the Box for food, I don’t believe either of us left the apartment that entire weekend. Friends would come and go throughout the weekend and find the two of us sitting in the exact same spot. Time well spent if you ask me. Even if Brannon kicked my ass whole damn time. I can’t help but think that is a testament to how good a game is. That it does not matter how much you win or lose. You still enjoy playing it.

Now, eleven years later (My God, Really?!?) and new Dead or Alive has been released. Dead Or Alive 5. This time, I got it for the PlayStation 3. The graphics are better. The levels are more detailed. But everything I loved about the game so many years ago has remained the same. It has one of the best training tutorials I have ever used in a video game. I am really having a blast with this.