Category Archives: Books & Comics

Converting PDF files to cbz

This is one of those things I am blogging about simply to have ready instructions for the next time I want to do it, so I do not have to go searching google again. What I want to do here is convert comic books that are in PDF format to the more generic cbz format so it can be read by apps like ComicBook Shelf, iComic and some others. The cbz format is simply each page of the comic being saved as a jpeg file, then it is all compressed into one zip file. It is simple enough that the conversion is pretty easy with just a couple of commands, I did not even have to install any extra software. Its so simple I am not even going to explain it, here is the shell script.

#!/bin/sh
mkdir tmp
pdftoppm -jpeg $1 tmp/page
zip $1.cbz tmp/*.jpg
rm tmp/*.jpg
rmdir tmp

Hal and Ollie Together Again

One of the best buddy teams in comic books has always been Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Their partnership heralded in the Bronze age of Comic Books with the Hard Travelling Heroes story line of the mid 1970’s.  Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen are two sides of the same coin. Green Lantern is a cosmic cop, interested in keeping the peace and enforcing the law across the universe, he is powerful, he is disciplined and he is a symbol of what it is to be a hero. Green Arrow is a street level vigilante who is interested in serving justice and helping those in need. He is passionate, reckless, and occasionally crosses the line, but he fights from his heart. They come together because they each want to do right, whether it is out in space or down on earth, they each give the other something they need. Hal Jordan is seconded only to Superman in shear power, and his scope extends far beyond earth, Oliver Queen reminds him that there are real people with real problems that cannot be wished away with a magic ring. Oliver Queen is focused on the little guy and problems in the here and now, Hal Jordan provides him with the big picture, shows him its not just him, its not just earth needs help. You just know they spend Sunday afternoon watching Football and eating bad chilli together. Something Superman and Batman would never do.

Since the Flashpoint event, this relationship has effectively been retconed out of the continuity. They have had very few interactions and those they had were all wrong and out of character for both of them. This month with Green Arrow #30, DC has reintroduced this friendship into the DC universe. The story had many nods to their original relationship and is shaping up to be a great story. The alternative cover for the book was even done by Mike Grell, who paid homage to his own work from 40 years ago. I would love to see DC pull Hal from his current gig with the Green Lantern Corps, kick the current Green Lanterns upstairs to the Corps and let him return to doing what he is best at, being the Green Lantern for space sector 2814. I am not saying we should merge the two back together, but I would love to see yearly crossovers.

#DC Rebirth

I have been reading some of the spoilers online about DC Comics upcoming Rebirth event. If you don’t know what that is, in a nutshell, after DC’s last reboot, they did away with a lot of legacy stuff that fans were not happy with. So they have decided to bring some of this back and they have been building up to it for about 8 months now.

One of the conversations I have seen around Rebirth, is there seems to be a group of people who do not want to see Green Arrow and Black Canary get back together. Most of them site an uninteresting relationship, one that is not like Lois and Clark or Ralph and Sue. These people do not feel it is an epic love story and is therefore not worth revisiting.

I disagree, one of the best aspects of Oliver Queen were his relationships. It is true, Ollie and Dinah aren’t Lois and Clark or Ralph and Sue, but that is a good thing. If all the relationships were the same, it would boring. The relationship is interesting because as Ollie and Dinah they are a doomed couple, both are bored and feel trapped, this is why both of them have had affairs. But as Green Arrow and Black Canary, the relationship is hot and exciting and they can’t stay away from each other.

Lois and Clark have polite little spats, Ralph and Sue have been married so long, they don’t even fight anymore and the sex for both couples is probably about the same. But Ollie and Dinah, they have knock down drag out rock and roll fights. And you know what else, the make up sex is volcanic and they do it in costume more often than not. They are always on the verge of breaking up, but they just can’t give each other up because its just too damn hot.

Ollie and Hal is one of the great Bromances of comic history. As heroes they could not be more different, Green Lantern, a cosmic power police officer and Green Arrow a street level vigilante who on occasion has crossed the line. But as Ollie and Hal they like the same bars, drink the same beer and watch football together on Sunday afternoon. They always have each others back and never keep secrets from each other.

Then we get into his relationships with Roy Harper, Conner Hawk and Mia Dearden. I think very few characters in comics has had the color and depth of relationships that Green Arrow has, most of which was wiped away by the New 52. I hope they bring back these relationships, the current version of Green Arrow lacks this depth.

How many have you read? The top 20 lied about books

Chad posted this today, so I thought I would respond in kind.

http://kurulounge.blogspot.com/2016/02/how-many-have-you-read-top-20-lied.html

  1. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – No.
  2. 1984 – George Orwell – Yes, a couple of times.
  3. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy – JRR Tolkien – Yes, at least three times
  4. War And Peace – Leo Tolstoy – No.
  5. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – No, never even heard of it.
  6. The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle – Yes
  7. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee – No.
  8. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens – No.
  9. Crime And Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – No.
  10. Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen – No, there is not enough money in the world.
  11. Bleak House – Charles Dickens – No.
  12. Harry Potter (series) – JK Rowling – No.
  13. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – No.
  14. The Diary Of Anne Frank – Anne Frank – No.
  15. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens – No.
  16. Fifty Shades trilogy – EL James – No, why is C-Grade porn even on this list?
  17. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie – No.
  18. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald – No.
  19. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller – Yes, twice.
  20. The Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger – Yes.

Note: I have lied about one of these, can anyone guess which one?

Two very different books

I have read two books in the last two weeks, both of them, I think come from the same place in the authors psyche, but with very different results. The two books are “The Chronicles of Benjamin Jamison: Call Sign Reaper” by Thomas Wright and “Armada” by Ernest Cline. This is more of an observation than a review of either of these books, although I will probably write a full review of Armada at some point. Both of these books are nerd teenage boy fantasy books. Both of them reflect a desire to have something interesting happen and be the hero. Quite frankly, I had both of these fantasies when I was 14 years old.

Call Sign Reaper is a story driven by pure testosterone, from the opening scene where the protagonist beats up 5 guys in bar, through the katana fights, the sexual submission of the female lead, until the final scene where he has assembled his own fleet. The author is really not a bad writer and while I get where this came from, I really had to fight my way through to finish the book, because this is the type of fantasy that should have been outgrown.

Armada is driven more by nostalgia and fond memories of the teenage years. The author is about 10 years younger than I am, so while I was in my 20s during the 80s, he was a teenager. Like his first book “Ready Player One“, Armada I think is a homage to those dorky movies they made during that time, like Real Genius, Weird Science and yes, the Last Star Fighter, which this book barrows heavily from. Even so, it is still at its core, the fantasy of a 14 year old boy.

The key difference between these two books, is Reaper comes off as kind of creepy and not in a good way. It sort of has this “I never got over being bullied in High School, so I am killing surrogates in my book” tone to it. Armada on the other hand is pretty harmless, beckons back to a simpler time and feeds into our love of coming of age stories. One of these is perfectly normal and even healthy, the other is not, if you went to High School with Thomas Wright, you should probably skip your class reunion.

Oh John Ringo, No

I just finished reading Live Free or Die: Troy Rising by John Ringo. I would like to first say, John Ringo is a passably good writer, he can develop a decent plot and has an interesting sense of humor. The big problem with this book is the heavy handed right wing political agenda and Mary Sue central character. Don’t get me wrong, neither of these things is a necessarily a deal breaker, after all I have read and enjoyed the majority of Heinlein’s work. The problem is Heinlein was a better writer and knew how to convey an idea without shoving it down your throat. I was half way through my second reading of Star Ship Troopers before I realized the government of earth was not a real democracy, but rather a military dictatorship, where only those who served in the military were allowed to vote.

The Good: The book has a neat premise and a pretty good plot. I especially love the proto Death Star.

The Bad: Tyler Vernon, the main character, can do no wrong, he is the smartest, richest most excellent man in the universe. he is also boring and two dimensional, there is no other significant characters in the book.

The Ugly: When the aliens attack earth, they use biological weapons designed to kill everyone except blondes and makes blonde women go into heat on a regular basis and capable of multiple birth. Further, when the aliens start bombing from orbit they target all the big cities in blue states, I am pretty sure Dallas and Houston survived the bombing. Essentially, he killed off most of the non-white people in the world, turned all the blonde women into baby making machines and eliminated all the liberal strongholds in the country. Then Tyler Vernon commented while it was really horrible all these people died, it was really a good thing because it would help the economy.

Stories dragging on and on

I don’t really like 800 page books, I especially don’t like 7 book series of 800 page books. Unfortunately, this trend is now affecting Comic Books as well. For some reason the current crop of Comic Book writers have taken to writing stories that develop at glacial speeds. Please, if you can not write a Comic Book story in 3 issues, 4 at the outside, give it up, you are in the wrong business. For example, DC’s current crossover event Forever Evil is by itself a 6 issue mini series, now add in the three other 6 issue mini series that tie into Forever Evil and both Justice League and Justice League of America are tying in as well. That is 36 issues over 6 month period for this story line, we are barely 4 months in and I want it to be over with already, no more navel gazing Lex Luthor.

Forever Evil is not the only story line dragging. Both Earth 2 and Worlds Finest are killing me as well. Earth 2 is currently in a story line about the re-invasion of earth by Darkseid, okay, fine and dandy, this could have been done in 4 issues, The Legion of Superheroes did the Darkness Saga in 6 issues, we are currently on issue 12. Worlds Finest is almost as bad, They are currently telling a story about Power Girls abilities going all wonky on her, 2 issues right? We are on issue 6 of this story line and we are about to cross over to Batman/Superman. Please make it stop.

Comic Con 2013 IV

Here is the original art pages from Incredible Hulk # 278 with Stan Lee’s autograph on it. PezWitch had to stand in line for two hours to get this signature and I appreciate her very much for her sacrifice. Before re-framing it, I put a copy of the receipt for the autograph between the pieces of cardboard for proof of providence. I have no idea how much this piece might be worth, but I hope someday someone else will look at this and say the same thing I did when I first saw this and bought it. As a side note, PezWitch got an offer to buy it before she even got 10 feet from Stan Lee.

Comic Con 2013 III

So somewhere in the middle of all this, I managed to get in a visit to Neal Adams table. Neal Adams is in my top 5 list of favorite artists. The darker, grittier Batman we see today was started by Neal Adams and of course he and Denis O’Neil were responsible for the ground breaking  Green Lantern/Green Arrow number 85.

I would love to be able to tell you that I had a wonderfully intelligent conversation with Neal Adams and that I wowed him with my natural charm and witty repartee. The reality though is my brain seized up in a fashion that has never happened before. I mean seriously, I have shaken hands with celebrities before and maintained my normal IQ level. However, with Neal Adams, my mind went blank, he literally stared at me and said, “Sir, you have to hand me the prints so I can sign them.” and I think it went down hill from there as I gapped like a moron. I did try to tell him my IQ was something above a 100, but I don’t think he believed me. I do have to say that in spite of this he was very nice and gracious to me. This is what I get for going out in public without PezWitch.

So the upside here, is I did get this print. This really shows off his talent and why he is considered one of the greatest living comic artists. Someday, I hope to meet him again and not be a dithering idiot.

Comic Con 2013 II

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Stan Lee panel. These panels are generally fun, but someone always does something stupid and this on was no exception. Some guy decided this was a great time to ask his girlfriend to marry him. Folks, this is stupid okay. I realize I am being selfish here and I realize this is probably a big deal to you, but guess what, to me you are pulling focus away from the person I came to see and making this event about you. Sorry, but I don’t care and yes, I would rather hear Stan Lee answer an actual question than listen to you beg your girlfriend to marry you.

This first picture was taken from a long distance, I cropped out most of the useless blurry stuff, leaving only the useful blurry stuff.

This one was much closer and considerably clearer.

Comic Con 2013

My back is killing me, my knee is fucked up and I am feeling every god damned minute of my nearly 50 years of existence. Normally when we do Comic Con we go all three days. Friday night gives us chance to make cursory run and make a list of the things we want to do and the people we want to talk to. The second day is spent waiting in lines getting autographs and going to panels. Day three is spent walking around the  booths and buying comic books and comic book related paraphernalia. This year we decided to do just one day, the downside is we spent most of the day in lines waiting for autographs and photo ops. The upside is I got autographs and photos taken with Stan Lee and William Shatner, neither of whom are young chickens.

When they take these photos, these are not meet and greets. No chit chat, no hand shakes, you walk in, they yell NEXT, you step up, they snap the pic and yell NEXT. Do not under any circumstance try to hold the line up. This annoys the celebrity, the photographer and those people who are behind you.

Things I own

This is a piece of original art I purchased in maybe 1988 or 1989. This is a two page spread from the Incredible Hulk # 278. The Hulk has apparently gained Bruce Banners intelligence and was given a Presidential pardon. This picture is of that moment and is significant because it shows most of the major Marvel characters of the time. The artist is Sal Buscema, who is the younger brother of the legendary comic artist John Buscema. I think this comic book goes for around $2 in mint condition, so the issue itself is not particularly sought after, but the nifty thing here is, there is only one of these.

Bored of the Rings

I just bought Bored of the Rings on my Kindle. My life is now complete. The humor in this book is a bit dated, but it is still funny as hell. This influenced my early D&D playing, heck, it influences my gaming today. Bored of the Rings is, to me the ultimate novelization of a RatShit D&D game. Bruce and I still quote it to each other.

Amazon – Bored of the Rings (Kindle Edition)

Uh, NO!

Over at io9, they ask the question, why was Hal Jordan picked to be Green Lantern rather than Superman or even Batman. The theory goes, that Superman or Batman with a power ring would be just AWESOME!

http://io9.com/why-the-hell-didnt-the-green-lanterns-pick-superman-512852750

They do go on to explain it in a not very convincing way. My take on it is pretty simple, while both Superman and Batman have formidable wills, neither are in Hal Jordan’s category in this area. I point to the old DC Superhero RPG by West End Games as a good indicator. In this game the scale for attributes is roughly 0 to 25, where 0 is an average man and each level you go up on an attribute is roughly double the previous, basically going up in a logarithmic fashion. In this game Superman’s Strength is 25, his will is 20. Hal Jordan’s Will is 25, while Batman is a mere 12. Again keep in mind 0 is an average man, by that standard, Batman has an impressive Will, however, even Gnort, the most incompetent Green Lantern in the universe, has a Will of 15. Superman comes much closer, but on that scale, Hal Jordan has as much Will as Superman has Strength. Face it, when it comes to ring slinging, Hal Jordan was the most qualified candidate in the space sector.

All of this has pretty much played out at one time or another in the comics, both Batman and Superman have ended wearing Hal’s ring, but neither have ever been able to use it as effectively as he has. At one point Hal Jordan takes on the rest of the GL Corps……..AND WINS! This was not a sneaky sneaky bullshit plan, this was a head on full frontal assault. Meanwhile, Superman has been pretty consistently been fought to a stand still by small groups of GL’s. So yeah, no, Hal Jordan was the first best choice for the ring.

RE: Earth 2

So I have been re-reading Earth 2 the last weeks or so, this is probably my 4th read through of the series. This afternoon, I was thinking about how bland the Justice League line is right now, then it dawned on me that the Captain Marvel backup story in JL has been pretty all right, although Billy Batson is kind of a jerk. Then as my mind meandered through the dark roads it travels occasionally and it occurred to me, why isn’t Captain Marvel on Earth 2 instead in the main DC universe.

Earth 1 has plenty of paragon style super heroes, Superman, Supergirl. Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Mon-El, just to name a few. On Earth 2, Superman and Wonder Woman are both dead, Supergirl is on Earth 1 as Power Girl and so far none of the heroes that have appeared on Earth Two have been paragon style heroes. Captain Marvel would have fit in beautifully on Earth 2 as so far all the origin stories have been based on magic and mythology. On Earth 2, he would not be over shadowed by Superman, he would have the chance to shine be what he was meant to be, the worlds mightiest mortal. This would also bring a major bad ass villain to Earth 2 in the form of Black Adam and Doctor Sivana could be that worlds Lex Luthor.

Even if DC wanted to maintain the Captain on Earth 1, they could build an Earth 2 counterpart in the form of Captain Thunder, a moniker that DC has used for him in the past on at least three occasions. It is all so clear to me now. Sigh! Too bad DC does not invite me to their editorial staff meetings.

Earth 2

The current DC line of comics has so far ranged from Meh to “Well at least nothing major has changed”. The Justice League line falls into this category, the line is just not that interesting. The Green Lantern line falls into the latter. I have always enjoyed the GL series and perhaps I am enjoying it now because it is the book that has least changed when they rebooted the DC universe.Anyway, in the middle of all this there are two comics that are truly excellent reads, Earth 2 and Worlds Finest. Earth 2 is basically a reintroduction of the Justice Society where Alan Scott is Green Lantern and Jay Garrick is the Flash.

The basis of the story is, the history of Earth 2 resembles that of Earth 1 up until Darkseid invades the planet. On Earth 1, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Cyborg band together and defeat him, forming the Justice League along the way. On Earth 2, only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman emerge and a bloody 5 year war ensues. In the end the three sacrifice their lives to win the war and in the process the Robin (Helena Wayne) and Supergirl are thrown into Earth 1 to become the Huntress and Power Girl, which is where the Worlds Finest comic comes in.

On Earth 2, a new generation of heroes is emerging, so far we have seen Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawk Girl, Doctor Fate and The Atom. This last week in Earth 2 Annual #1 they introduced several new characters, Steel, Mister Miracle, Barda and a new Batman.

So the next question is, if Bruce Wayne died 6 years ago in the war with Apocalypse, then who is the new Batman. Dick Grayson seems like a good choice, but keep in mind on Earth 2, he was never Robin, however this Batman’s costume does some what resemble the Earth 1 Nightwing’s red on black ensemble. There are a couple of other options as well. A FlashPoint style Thomas Wayne, perhaps Damien Wayne (Bruce’s son with Talia Ghul) or Paul Jean Valley are all possibilities. If the quality of this book keeps up, it should be a lot of fun finding out.

The Suck

Hot on the tail of the suck that was the Star Trek:TOS/Legion of Superheroes Comic book cross over, the same company is getting set to do a Star Trek:TNG/Dr Who cross over.

http://io9.com/5884067/a-doctor-whostar-trek-comic-is-coming

Please!, for the love of god, STOP. This is going be bad, REALLY REALLY BAD. I implore you IDW please don’t do it. I know you think this is going to make you millions and the writer who is vomiting this garbage out thinks he is going to get a movie deal, but neither of those things are going to happen, because this idea SUCKS! The Star Trek:TOS/Legion of Superheroes cross over would have been considered bad even if you had posted it to a fanfic site instead of convincing DC to let you use their intellectual property.

Stop, Just Stop.

Two Reviews

The Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell: It normally takes me seven to ten days to read a book, I know, I know, I am a fairly slow reader. However, I have plowed through the first three books of this series in the last week. Campbell builds an interesting universe where humanity has been engaged in a galactic war with itself for more than a century and due to staggering losses, the war has degenerated into horrible stale mate with the two sides throwing cheap ships with raw crews at each other in near one for one exchanges. The main character John “Black Jack” Geary is an interesting characterization of a man out of time. Although some times it feels like a cross between between Andromeda and Idiocracy, over all it is an excellent read.

Legion of SuperHeroes/Star Trek crossover: When this first came out, I avoided it like the plague, I figured there was no way this was going end well. So by the time the 3rd issue was out, I started reading some reviews of it saying it was turning out pretty good. So I went to my friendly neighborhood comic shop and picked up the first three issues. All I can say about this is, it really sucks ass far worse than I originally thought. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to fired from IDW and DC Comics. Seriously, I knew who the villain was by page twelve of issue 1, the plot is not only predicable, it is BORING and predictable. The characterizations of the Legion is completely two dimensional and the Enterprise crew is presented in extremely cliched manner and is almost a parody. Please do not waste your money on this crap.

This one is for Chad

Enjoy!

RIP: Anne McCaffrey, 1 April 1926 – 21 November 2011

This last week Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragon Riders Pern, died. While she was not my favorite writer, I have read much of her work, and she writes in that light, fun sort of way that new writers don’t seem capable of. I suggest everyone dig out their copy and re-read Dragonflight next week.

Comic Con 2011: Final Wrap

This year was a far different experience from last year. Last year we attended several panels with actors, artists and writers, this year I attended only one. Last year, only Mike Grell felt really approachable, this year Adam Baldwin, Kevin Sorbo, James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter were all very friendly and willing to spend several minutes with each fan and allowed you to take candid shots if you wanted. Over all it was a fun time and I am glad I got to share it with my nephews and sister.

Comic Con 2011: Day Three

We are home, tomorrow I will write a wind-up and maybe add a couple of pictures. In the mean time.

A much prettier looking Blue Lantern than last years.

PezWitch says she is going to burn down “Lifes” house with a Fucking Lemon Grenade.

James Marsters does not know what to think about Thuhlu.

Nightwing…You’ve…Changed?

Peter Mayhew having a smoke break with fans.

No idea, but PezWitch says this is very funny.

Comic Con 2011: Day Two

PezWitch and I. She is dressed as Claire from the Guild, I am a Munchkin Player, we estimated I have +130 to hit, but it is okay because I have the “CHEAT” card, so its all good.

Jade and Black Canary

Marv Wolfman, writer of the New Teen Titans and the mind behind Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Death as a hot goth chic.

Adam Baldwin, the man they called Jayne.

Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), SuperGirl and Starman (Legion of Superheroes).

The Silk Spectre.

Comic Con 2011: Day One Part Two

Two strange people who may or may not be distant relatives.

 

Comic Con 2011: Day One

We got to the Con late and we only stayed for about an hour and a half.

This is my sister Mary with Kevin Sorbo and Thulhu.

A fair impression of Silent Bob.

A gangly bunch steampunk renegades.

This is a good example of a weight appropriate costume, everyone’s 2nd favourite Green Lantern, Killiwog.

This quest giver hated bugs and requested up and coming heroes to stomp 10 bugs for a reward.

The Black Power Ranger

Are they suppose to wear the corset on the outside?