Sunday, July 27, 2014

Diary of a Girl Next Door

What do you think of when you hear, or read, "Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the gang from Riverdale?" Archie Comics of course! People have been following the comic book adventures of these characters created by John L. Goldwater since their first appearance in Pep Comics #22 on December 22, 1941.  After 73 years of focusing on portraying the adventures of the teenagers from Riverdale in the pages of comic books, publisher Archie Comics is expanding their story telling to prose for the first time with its new book Diary of a Girl Next Door.

The format of this book is very similar to the popular children/tween book Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but instead of told from a geeky boy's point of view it portrays the challenges of being a teenager from the perspective of an overachieving girl, to be specific the town of Riverdale's famous over-achieving teen Betty Cooper.  While this is written from a girl's point of view, like Wimpy Kid it is a book that will be of interest to either sex to read telling funny tales of growing up supplemented with hand-drawn sketches to help tell the story.  The book is written as if it was Betty's diary notations about how crazy a teen girl's life can be and filled with sketches she drew while jotting down her thoughts about the freshman year of high school.  Diary of a Girl Next Door is filled with BMX stunts, heroic dog training, espionage, archaeology, and a handful of Yeti to boot that will bring a smile to the faces of both children and parents who pick up this book.

Here's a glimpse at this story that takes readers through the 720-day sprint that is known as the Freshman Year of High School:


You can pick up Diary of a Girl Next Door from your local bookstore or online by CLICKING HERE.  Betty's diary entries are penned by an Archie Comics fan-favorite cartoonist, Tania del Rio, who is best known for crafting a manga-inspired comic of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Long-time Archie Comics artist Bill Galvan is the hand behind the drawings for Betty's doodles that fill her diary.  These two talents combine for a creative romp of twists and turns that is the maze of high school that everyone has to find their own way through.

DISCLAIMER:  I received a complimentary digital download of Diary of a Girl Next Door from Archie Comics to review for this post.  A Geek Daddy Blog was granted permission by Archie Comics to post the images shown in this post.  Archie Comics retains copyright on these images and they should not be displayed or printed without the company's expressed permission.

Battlestar Galactica is going SteamPunk

Dynamite Comics is taking the Battlestar Galactica franchise steampunk in an upcoming 4 issue mini-series that is starting in August.  Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that has gained a tremendous amount of popularity over the last decade, this year's FREE COMIC BOOK DAY event included a Star Wars steampunk edition in its offerings for example, which features steam-powered machinery in an alternative history where technology didn't advance beyond that of the 19th century British Victorian/American "Wild West" time period in stories.  Other themes also include post-apocalyptic Earth where our technology has regressed back to steam power or fantasy alien worlds where steampunk is their current culture and technology level.  The mini-series will be titled "Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880."

This Battlestar Galactica mini-series removes the space faring element from the story and retells it with similar characters and elements taking place in a fantasy steampunk world.  Here's the new story:

After Professor Baltar's clockwork Cylonics destroy the Colonial Empire, Arch Duke Adama learns that his son Apollo is missing! It is up to Lady Athena to travel to the Sky Pirate world of the Rising Star and ask for help from the only hope she has - the disgraced Captain Starbuck and his humanoid / Daggit copilot Muffit.

Check out a sample of some of the artwork from Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880:

From the artwork and story description this looks to be a fun spinoff of the original Battlestar Galactica television show.  It should be really interesting to see how all the costumes and tech are steampunked in this comic book.  You can already see in the previews that they have giant and regular sized clock-work cylons and flying sailing ships battling it out.  I'm looking forward to picking up a copy of the first issue when it comes out in a few weeks and seeing all of the imaginative steampunk twists they take off of this classic science fiction space drama.

Marvel to publish 3 New Star Wars Comic Book Series starting in 2015

Marvel announced at the 2014 ComicCon in San Diego this weekend that it will be launching 3 new series in 2015 when the Star Wars comic book license transfers from Dark Horse Comics at the end of this year.  Interestingly these three new Star Wars titles continue what appears to be a concerted Disney strategy in promoting the brand by focusing on the original trilogy of movies and essentially ignoring the prequel movies.  As a fan of the Star Wars franchise since going to see the original movie at the theater as a kid with my dad in 1977, I am so glad Disney is taking this path.  I remember going to see the first prequel movie with a bunch of my friends at a sold-out midnight first showing of the film and being witness to energetic fans just leaving the theater deflated and annoyed.  It had seemed that Lucas had sold out his loyal fans to entice a new younger generation in the franchise playing more to their likes than to the preserving the original vibe of the films.

Disney is working to restore that vibe and you can see that in these three new comic book series.  All three focus on the time period between the films Episode IV A New Hope (the original Star Wars) and the franchise's most popular movie Episode V Empire Strikes Back.  It had been speculated by some fans and comic industry folks that Marvel would do a series focusing on the new animated television series Star Wars: Rebels but it appears at this time that is not in the cards just yet.  It had also been speculated that one of the series might take place after Return of the Jedi to help erase some of the Expanded Universe connection with fans and tie the original movies to Episode VII which is supposed to hit theaters in December of 2015.  Neither of these speculations occurred.  All of the announced comic books will focus on the Star Wars cannon timeline between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

In fact the stories in Issue #1 of these new series are set 2 weeks after the Battle of Yavin where Luke Skywalker, with an assist from Han Solo & Chewbacca, blew up the Death Star.  The first series titled just STAR WARS will focus on the adventures of  the Rebel Alliance from its point of view featuring popular characters such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.  The second series is titled Star Wars: Darth Vader and will focus on the Empires fight to put down the rebellion from Vader's perspective.  Star Wars: Princess Leia will follow this character as she struggles with the loss of her family, friends and home world to the Death Star and seeks to find her role in the Rebellion as both a diplomat and warrior.  Marvel has recently made it a corporate priority to strengthen its catalog of female characters and work to expand its female customer base.  It appears that Princess Leia is going to be joining the all-female X-men team, Thor and Captain Marvel in moving that policy forward although her series isn't a full blown one and will consist of a 5-issue mini-series.

Star Wars: Princess Leia will debut in March 2015.  It will be written by Mark Waid who has scripted issues of Daredevil and Indestructible Hulk to his credit and artist Terry Dodson who has provided artwork for Uncanny X-Men and Marvel Knights Spider-Man.  The story picks up a few weeks after the events of Episode IV where Leia is profiled as a trained diplomat and agent of the rebellion coming to terms with the destruction of her homeworld at the hands of Darth Vader and the Empire.

Star Wars: Darth Vader will come out in February 2015. This ongoing monthly series will show the Empire's side of the war.  While Darth Vader is the lone survivor of the Death Star's destruction, a crushing defeat for the Empire, he has lost the faith and good will of his Sith Master, Emperor Palatine.  In this series Darth Vader reminds the Empire why he is a figure to fear.  The comic book will be written by Kieron Gillen who has worked on Uncanny X-Men and Journey Into Mystery and have artwork by Salvador Larocca whose credits include Invincible Iron Man, and Uncanny Avengers.

The final series, which will also be the first one to debut is titled simply STAR WARS.  It appears to take the premise that Brian Wood's similarly titled comic book series for Dark Horse that was published for the last two years took and reboot it for Marvel.  Coming out in January 2015, STAR WARS picks up 2 weeks after A New Hope with Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo leading a Rebel Alliance emboldened by their successful attack on the Death Star and going on the offensive against the Empire. The Rebels find defeating the Empire may be more difficult than they'd planned when the find out Darth Vader, thought dead in the Death Star attack, is back.  This new STAR WARS series will be written by Jason Aaron who has scripted Original Sin & Thor: God of Thunder.  The artwork will be provided by John Cassaday who has recently worked on Uncanny Avengers & Astonishing X-Men.

Fans of  Darkhorse's Star Wars comics had wondered if any of the creative team who had worked on those publications might transition over to Marvel to continue working on the franchise or if Marvel may continue some of the ongoing titles like "Star Wars" and "Legacy: Anai Solo"; but it is apparent from the ComicCon announcement that Marvel will be taking its own direction and using its own talent moving forward.  From the description of these new comic book series and some preview artwork from the upcoming STAR WARS #1 issue provided by the official Star Wars website, I have to say I am impressed by Marvel's efforts and excited to pickup these new issues when they are released.

STAR WARS #1 will hit comic book stores in January 2015.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #1 follows in February 2015.
STAR WARS: PRINCESS LEIA #1 will come out in March 2015.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

STAR TREK goes to the APES

With the recent box office successes of the movies RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the Planet of the Apes franchise is a hot commodity again.  Based upon that renewed popularity, BOOM! STUDIOS the publisher of Planet of the Apes comic books is hoping to have the apes explode off the printed page by creating an epic crossover miniseries with another classic SciFi brand STAR TREK.  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to "mind-meld" with a sentient ape...I have to say I haven't but I am sure there are some folk out there who have...or wanted to see a Klingon on horseback brandishing a rifle?  Boom! Studios threw out those scenarios when it announced at Comic Con that its partnering with IDW Publishers, who holds the comic book license for Star Trek, to present an alternate future where Star Trek and Planet of the Apes crossover.

IDW will publish the mini-series which will pair the original U.S.S. Enterprise crew with Taylor, Nova, and the cast of the original Planet of the Apes film.  This will mark the first time Boom! Studios has partnered with another publisher for a comic book series.  Together they will bring Star Trek, licensed by CBS Consumer Products, and 20th Century Fox's Planet of the Apes together in a product the publishers exclaim will delight existing fans of these two franchises and create new fans for each of these two brands.

In a press release IDW President & Chief Operating Officer, Greg Goldstein and Boom! Studios Founder and CEO Ross Richie comments on this upcoming min-series which they called the "crossover event of the year."

"Planet of the Apes and Star Trek are groundbreaking science-fiction properties and both deal with many of the same social issues and themes,”  Greg Goldstein noted.  “A crossover between the two is a natural and long overdue.”

“Before I could read comic books as a child, I could watch science fiction on my television. My dad used to wake me up way past my bedtime to watch Star Trek in syndication—it came on after the nightly news—and I took a Planet of the Apes lunchbox with me to kindergarten every day,” said Ross Richie. “Suffice to say, teaming up these two titans of science fiction on the page in a way that they probably will never meet each other on the silver screen is a huge moment for me personally and emotionally.”

The creative team on this project will be a mix of veteran comic authors Scott and David Tipton scripting the series and the interior and cover art being created by British newcomer Rachael Stott.  The Tipton's recently worked on another high profile Star Trek cross-over with the recent Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who mini-series that IDW published.

“With the Klingons secretly backing a renegade gorilla general in a coup for control of Ape City, Captain Kirk finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to help out Dr. Zaius’ orangutans,” explains David Tipton. “Taylor won’t be happy with that!”

“What an epic pairing! I’m so excited to see Taylor, Kirk…and those damned dirty apes…in our upcoming comic,” says IDW editor Sarah Gaydos, “We’re eager to team up these exciting creative forces to bring this to life.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Enjoying the Geeky Side of Life - Celebrating Batman Day

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the caped crusader with Batman's first appearance taking place in Detective Comics #27 which was published in 1939.  In recognition of this milestone year DC Comics designated Wednesday, July 23, 2014 as BATMAN DAY to celebrate.  Comic book retailers celebrated BATMAN DAY by distributing a free print of a modernized version of Detective Comics #27 that was revamped by DC Comics creative team along with some fun cardboard caped crusader masks and other dark knight inspired swag.  I decided to take a "Dad Moment" with my kids and blocked off the day from work to devote having a themed day of Batman fun.

We did that last summer when DC Comics held a similar event marking Superman's 75th anniversary in 2013.  I took off work to take my children to the comic book store to pickup free Superman comic books than we went home to enjoy some Superman ice cream and play super heroes in the backyard.  My kids really enjoyed our MAN OF STEEL DAY together last year so we had a CAPED CRUSADER DAY this summer.

We started off BATMAN DAY cruising over to the comic book store to pick up our freebies.  Than we headed over to the park to have some super hero adventures at the playscape.  Following some playtime we visited a nature center where the guides told the kids about bats and gave them an up close look at a few stuffed specimens that they had on hand.  The guides also showed us some bat houses behind the nature center where the live ones live and explained how bats help protect us and the ecosystem by eating mosquitoes.

July 23rd was also "National Hot Dog Day" so we stopped by Sonic to get some $1 chili cheese dogs that they had on special for lunch.  We also nabbed some Batman Slushes to take home with us (Grape Slush - looks like Batman's costume - with Nerds candy in them - because enjoying comic books is kinda nerdy).

When we got home we enjoyed our Batman Slushes (well my son & I did; my daughter insisted on getting the red colored version) while reading our new comic books.  It was a full day enjoying the geeky side of life celebrating Batman's Birthday.  The following day I'll back to work and the kids will be back at the babysitters so I wanted to make the most out of our special Daddy Day Out.  I'm hoping my kids will remember these geeky days with daddy when they're grown up fondly and recognize that I made an extra effort to spend some special quality time with them while they were little...and hopefully it will inspire them to enjoy the geeky side of life every once in awhile.

Brian Wood's "Star Wars" Comic Book Series is iBooks Pick of the Week - Download FREE Digital Comics

This week ios & Mac users can download Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin for FREE on Apple's iBook platform.  Each week iBook selects a great book and provides it for free as its Book of the Week.  In honor of Comic Con taking place this week and next month's conclusion of the Star Wars comic book monthly series published by Dark Horse Comics and scripted by author Brian Wood, iBooks has selected the graphic novel compilation of the title's first six issues.  The Star Wars comic book series tells original tales set between the movies Episode IV A NEW HOPE and Episode V THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK with an artistic tone that pays homage to the feel and vibe to the franchise's original trilogy of movies.

Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin

After the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebels are hounded by the Empire.  Suspecting a spy in their ranks, Princess Leia forms a secret X-wing squadron - which includes Luke Skywalker - to expose the spy and find a safe home.  Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are sent on a covert mission.  Star Wars Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin collects Dark Horse Comics Star Wars #1 - #6 and the Free Comic Book Day 2013 issue. 

I've personally purchased every issue of this Star Wars series during its run and have look forward each month to picking up and reading the newest issue.  I'll miss this series when it concludes next month as Dark Horse wraps up its Star Wars publications and the comic book license reverts to Marvel, who originally had it in the 1970s and 1980s.  If you are a nostalgic fan of the original Star Wars trilogy of movies, you will enjoy this comic book series that provides a modern update to the imagery but has an old school Star Wars  interpretation of the characters and their stories.  If you haven't read these comics this iBooks offer is a nice jumping off point to start, and if you can also read  this graphic novel without having to pick up the other issues in the series to enjoy it.  Though you probably will get hooked and want to keep reading the rest of the series stories!  ... and if you have already been reading Brian Wood's Star Wars than this is a nice addition to your collection that can be stored on a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone for reading.

To download a FREE digital edition of STAR WARS VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN visit the iBook store or CLICK HERE.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Minor League Baseball Games can be an Economical & Entertaining Family Night Out

My 5 year old son and I ventured the hour drive from Detroit to Toledo, Ohio the other day to meet up with some friends for a Mudhens' game at Fifth Third Field.  It was a first trip to a minor league baseball game for both of us and I have to say we were both very impressed and had a great time.  The Mudhen's are the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate club team meaning that this team has a variety of players going up and being sent town from the Major League club.  We recognized a few names of Mudhens who we'd seen play this season in Tigers games and my buddy who was with us with his 5 and 7 year old sons pointed out a few that would probably be making their way up to the Major League before the end of the season.

Fifth Third Field is a nice 8,000 seat facility in downtown Toledo.  You can see some of the classic architecture buildings from the City's heyday as a backdrop to the outfield which provides a nice urban vibe to the stadium.  It is really easy to get to as you take a short drive right off the freeway exit that leads you straight to the ballpark.  We found a safe and secure parking lot a block away from the stadium that charged a reasonable $5 dollars.  A few days after our visit to the Mudhens game my wife and I went to a Tigers game and in comparison that same spot would have cost $30 and we ended up paying $10 at a parking lot 6 blocks away from Comerica Park.

Our seats at Fifth Third Field were $10 each and were in the second row along the first base line, probably some of the best seats in the stadium.  Those same tickets at a Tigers game probably would have been 100% more expensive.  It was great to sit back and just enjoy the great view of a baseball game.  The stadium was probably at half capacity compared to a Tigers game which probably has 30,000 to 50,000 people.  There was just this nice laid back atmosphere at the game with everyone enjoying a nice summer evening outdoors and appreciating watching some baseball.  In addition to  close up views of the players, we also had a lot of interaction with the various mascots that attend the games.  Muddonna spent most of the game either sitting by us interacting with fans or dancing on the dugout in front of our seats.  We could spot her husband Muddy flying around the stadium throughout the game thrilling the kids in attendance.  Also present at the game were the mascots for the Toledo Walleye Minor League hockey team which has an arena a couple blocks from Fifth Third Field, Cattrick and Spike.  My son was laughing and pointing out these characters the whole game...although he still is a little afraid of these type of costumed characters and didn't want them to get too close which made for some interesting moments when the mascots wandered over to say hello.

I know that a basic hotdog with mustard on a steamed bun is standard baseball fare but we splurged a little bit enjoying some of the alternatives they had at Fifth Third Field.  My son enjoyed a Mac & Cheese Dog which is a grilled hot dog covered in macaroni & cheese and bacon while I had the Chicken & Waffle Bites with warm maple syrup for dipping.  Unfortunately, the Mudhens menu prevented my daughter from joining us on this fun evening.  Like Comerica Park and most other ballpark venues Fifth Third Field was littered with peanut shells and the risk of absorbing the oil from these shells contaminating seats and other fixtures of the stadium is too much of a risk for our daughter who has a severe food allergy where exposure could be deadly.  Unfortunately we have to take her to games where special accommodations to avoid peanut interactions are available which are often very seldom and limited opportunities which unfortunately really reduces our ability to go on a family outing to the enjoy America's pastime.

My son is more interested in getting out of the house at his age than really sitting down to watch a baseball game so what was nice about this experience was there was a variety of things to do and the price tag didn't break the bank.  We sat down for awhile and watched the game with a great view.  Because of how close we were to the action,  I was able to point out numerous things about the game play and what the fielders, batters and base runners were doing to explain him the game.  My son was also excited to see all the "baseball players" right up there in front of him.  We had some fun watching the mascots and eating our dinner.  Than my son and his friends headed over to the nice playground the stadium has behind center field, Muddy's Marsh, to play for a few innings.  We wrapped up the night with a visit to the gift shop picking up each of us a really nice fitted baseball caps from my favorite hat manufacturer, 47 Brand, for about half the price a similar cap would cost at a Tigers game, plus these were also slightly lower in price and minus the shipping of the Mudhens caps I'd seen for sale online.  Of course my son wanted me to buy him one but than wouldn't wear it during the game, though he has been wearing it around the last few days.

The Mudhen's are known for having some interesting promotions: Star Wars Night, Ghostbusters Night, Christmas in July for example.  We went on LEGO night.  They did a really nice job of having Lego themed images and videos on the scoreboard during the game.  My son won a contest where he made the most "Lego hotdogs" within a minute and received some stickers and temporary tattoos as a prize.  It was sad though that the PR department for the team went all out to market this event to kids and parents promoting they were giving out a special Lego minifigure at the gates when you entered.  They didn't order enough and although we and our friends arrived at the game well before the first pitch none of the children in our group received these toys.  So I have to give the promotions team a thumbs down.  It is one thing to have great promo themes but if you can't properly execute them than you are just lame.  The kids were disappointed not to get a Lego but fortunately this didn't damper their enthusiasm or fun at the game and all had a great time despite this let down.

The most important part of the night was that it put a smile on my son's face and we had some nice bonding time.  I'm thinking of buying tickets for the Mudhen's Star Wars Night next season and if they have a peanut free night maybe we'll take the whole family out for a night at Fifth Third Field.  Based upon the fun we had at this minor league game, my wife and I know the Whitecaps, the Tiger's Class A minor league team in Grand Rapids, Michigan, holds some peanut free games each year and we're considering a roadtrip to go to one of them in 2015.  Just a note to teams that are thinking of holding peanut free games, many of these events are held in early weeks of season when attendance is low, please consider some summer nights that are convenient to families who have to struggle with the challenges of food allergies.

Minor League Baseball games can really be an economical and entertaining family night out.  If you haven't been to one yet or lately I'd recommend going out to one of these ballparks for a fun time.