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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Electronic Arts "Wasteland" post-apocalyptic role playing game



My memory is so full of good times with video games when I was growing up and one of those memories is Electronic Arts epic post-apocalyptic role playing game “Wasteland”.  “Wasteland” literally came out of nowhere to rob me blind of many, many daytime and night time hours of my eighteen year old life during my first year in college away from home. 

It was February or March of 1988, sometime about a third of the way through my second semester; I remember getting out of class for the day at Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Mississippi and wanting to just get out and go for a long drive in the warming Mississippi spring weather.   Cruising around Jackson in my black and gold ’79 Pontiac Trans Am with the T-tops off and listening to the Kenwood aftermarket stereo system I eventually found myself at Northpark Mall by afternoon’s end and after eating an early dinner at the food court I wandered aimlessly around the mall hitting my usual haunts …

Bookstore.

Toy Store.

Arcade.

Music store.

Electronics Boutique.

Oh, back in those days EB wasn’t wall to wall with console games, no, EB was wall to wall with computer games and computer accessories.  In fact, I don’t even remember there being any console video games at EB back in those days … no, it was just computer gaming software for the IBM (PC), Apple and Commodore personal computer systems and back then while the IBM had more games available for it the Apple games seemed to have the best graphics (something that decades later I still wonder about).  As soon as I walked in EB there was a standup cardboard display greeting me for “Wasteland.”



Now, back in the day my chosen gaming rig and personal computer was my trusty Apple IIC (two-cee) that I’d gotten about seven years prior and it had been my best friend all through school.  It was almost like a laptop computer … it was the size of a contemporary laptop, had a built-in floppy drive (5.25”) and a small monochrome (green) monitor.  When hooked up with a Commodore color monitor that I’d gotten for Christmas the previous year and I had a screaming game machine (at that time) that would run anything I could throw at it (as long as whatever I threw at it said “APPLE II+ family compatible”).  Like I said, the IBM (PC) (later just identified as “DOS”) had the most games available for it and sometimes the PC had games that I really wanted to play that were not offered in Apple versions so as I grabbed up the “Wasteland” software folder my eyes scanned the words I was looking for … looking for that sticker which said that it was Apple compatible … and it was!


Holy smoke on a Belgian waffle!

Whatever this game was … and it looked (expletive expletive expletive) awesome … it would run on my Apple IIC! 



I turned the shrink wrapped software jacket over in my hands, my eyes roaming that amazing cover art and then scanning the preview screen shots on the back all the while reading what I could be getting into.  My mind raced … “Wasteland” … “Electronic Arts” … from the same people who had brought me such wonderful previous RPGs like “The Bard’s Tale” series.

It was some kind of post-apocalyptic role playing game for the Apple computer … and it was like “Bard’s Tale” … sort of … only with radiation and mutants and guns and rocket launchers!  I have to tell you, in the spring of 1988 post-apocalyptic stuff was still tightening the lugnuts of my imagination and here was the first real post-apocalyptic computer game that I’d ever played … okay, maybe not.  There had been SSI’s “Road War 2000” about two years ago but it hadn’t looked anything like … this.

This was … cool!

This was ... TSR's "Gamma World" on a computer game ... if TSR had ever made "Gamma World" into a computer game.

It was one of those moments in your life when you know that something really cool is about to happen.  There were some science fiction games for the Apple back then but none of those games were role playing games.  As far as role playing games went I’d pretty much been relegated to Origin’s “Ultima” series of dungeon crawling monster slaying sequel adventures and SSI’s “Questron” which was a fun play.  It amazes me that with the threat of global thermonuclear war looming all the time between America and Russia that fantasy RPGs were all the rage on computers.  There’s only so much fantasy and magic that I could take and by the spring of 1988 I had pretty much had all of the spell casting and sword swinging and dragon slaying that I could take and “Wasteland” seemed like just the kind of doomsday stroll I was looking for.

Oh … this was going to be good!

I paid for my copy of “Wasteland” and drove home to my apartment in Raymond, MS and … good memories.  The game came with two, double sided five and a quarter inch floppy disks, a game manual, and a book of paragraphs to read at certain points in the game.

"Wasteland", like most games in that era, had to be copied to a blank disk in order to play because since there were no hard drives and since "Wasteland" was one of the first persistent environment type games (meaning if you killed everyone in a location when you left and came back everyone in that location was still dead ...) so data was actively being written to the floppy disks as you played the game.  Heaven help you if you ever played off of one of your "master" disks ...




I don’t know how many total hours that I played “Wasteland” but it was a good chunk of my eighteen year old life that semester.  Some of the things that I remember about that game, now 28 years later, I’ll share with you.

The game ran on two, double sided five and a quarter inch floppy disks.

You had to copy the original disks and play from the copies.  There was a notch on the disks that you put a piece of tape over to protect the disk so that the disk could not be changed or written to.

Before you played the game you had to take four blank disks and painstakingly run a utility program that copied the two original disks, front and back to the four backup disks.  There were no hard drives back then so everything was run in memory.  During game play you would be asked to swap out disks as you played.  If you didn’t save often and you lost power then you lost everything you had played for.
I started out with four characters … Jessie, Waylon, Sarah and Deena.  I kept the names simple because you were limited to a certain amount of letters for each name and I really wasn’t in the habit of naming my characters stuff like “Johnny the Mutant Slayer” or anything that silly and ridiculous.

I remember leaving the Ranger Center … fresh recruits heading out into the “Wasteland” for the first time.  I had been told that something … strange … was happening to the north west and that there were a few settlements to the west so off I went exploring.

Every now and then the game would tell you to read some text out of a handout.  This would add ambience to the gaming experience.  Why this text couldn’t be included in the game itself I didn’t understand but perhaps it was a limitation of the programming ability back then.

I remember fighting mutant animals at some agriculture center which had a giant rusting satellite dish (why an agriculture center needed a giant satellite dish was something I thought about … maybe it was some kind of satellite communication center that later was turned into an agriculture center after the bombs fell and things like satellite dishes became pretty much useless).  I remember there being an underground warren where I had to go kill killer bunnies and stuff.  I eventually stopped shooting them and just switched to my character’s combat knives and got up close and personal to save ammo.

I remember a section of railroad with a couple of train cars and some tents … I think some nomads lived there and you could trade with them.  The train cars never went anywhere.

I remember some motel that I had to go to the courtyard.  There was a pool and just for fun I put my character through the pool.  He started swimming and got experience for doing it so I swam around for a while and got some free experience.

Squeezings!  Which was what all the drunks kept asking for … I guess “snake squeezings” was slang for liquor and booze.

I fought a hobo and his big dog … and won.

Shifting sands.

I remember finding a jeep outside a city but not being able to do anything with it.  There were no other vehicles around so I thought that was weird.  Later I rescued a guy and he fixed the jeep and drove us … somewhere … to another location.  I thought that was weird and neat.

I remember fighting robots in a sewer and three of my characters getting killed because that firefight was never-ending and burned through almost all of my ammo.  I used up grenades, anti-tank rockets and burned entire magazines at a time through my weapons.

I buried those three dead characters in the spot on the map just to the right of the Ranger Center.  Every time I went back to the Ranger Center I thought about my three dead team mates.  Few games did that way back then.  

Few games do today.

I made three new characters.  The survivor of the first group became their mentor.
I remember some outlaws or bandits or criminals had kidnapped the mayor’s daughter and I had to assault their hideout in the town.  Somehow I managed to get on the roof of the hideout and use ropes to go through a skylight.  There was a long running gunfight with the outlaws and I eventually killed their leader.  The mayor’s daughter was tied to a chair and rigged with explosives.  I disarmed the explosives and we all got out of there to return the mayor’s daughter to him.  That was intense.  I even had to get up and walk around for a few minutes outside after that fight because up until that point in time that was the most epic RPG computer game fight I’d ever played through.  I tried to copy the game disk so I could go back in and do the fight again but that didn’t work.

I remember there was a village that the only way you could get to it was by going way north and then following a trail due south.  If you tried to get to the village from the south you got radiation poisoning.

I remember my first Proton Ax!  I found it in some room on a golf course in Vegas, I think.  It was so much better than what I’d been using against the robots.  Proton ax!  FTW!

Fighting death machines in the golf course in Vegas.  When I first went to Las Vegas all I seemed to run into were death machines.


Drools!

Night Screamers … sitting there holding that toy doll … just freaky.

Giant iguanas!

I remember not being able to open a locked door so I used a “mangler” on it which was either a type of grenade or a type of anti-tank rocket and I blew the door up and was able to get the loot inside.

There was a military base where you could learn new skills.  I think you learned how to fly a helicopter there as well in some kind of simulator then took the helicopter to do the final attack on the final boss / base.

I think I built an android as a team member …

Pseudo-chitin armor!  To this day I still remember how cool finding “pseudo-chitin armor” was and how after finding it my characters didn’t get hurt as bad as often.

Laser guns!

A man portable meson cannon!

Power armor!

A rampant AI intent on using automated death machines to pacify the Wasteland of all organic life!

The final assault on the AI base kind of reminded me of what it might have been like assaulting SKYNET in the “Terminator” movie … and this was three years before “Terminator 2” ever hit theaters.

One of the things that I remember most about “Wasteland” was that I played it while listening to Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra” album.  To this day when I listen to “Phaedra” I can close my eyes and still get glimpses of the imagined “Wasteland” … so ingrained in my golden memories is the association between that Tangerine Dream album and that Electronic Arts computer game that I can’t help having fond memories when I think of one or the other.


"Phaedra" was the perfect soundtrack to "Wasteland" ... from the title track to "Sequent C", the last track on Side B, which was playing at the time that I buried three quarters of my team members.

“Wasteland”, while it dominated my free time in the spring of 1988, was a non-stop love affair with everything that was cool in the post-apocalypse setting.  I was fortunate enough to own and play this game when it came out and I have many fond memories of it.  Almost ten years later I got to play the spiritual successor to “Wasteland” …“Fallout” and oh what a difference that nearly decade long wait had made in graphics and play-ability


I don’t think I got any of the “Wasteland” references in “Fallout” other than the reference to the Desert Rangers.  I understood at the time that “Fallout” wasn’t a real sequel to “Wasteland” but playing “Fallout” I reminisced about “Wasteland” and thought about how far we’d come as computer gamers in so short a time.

I’ve been a big fan of the ongoing “Fallout” series (some more than others).  Now, twenty-eight years later, almost to the day, I’ve gone back and purchased “Wasteland” off of the GOG website and I’m revisiting the “Wasteland” again.  It’s a funny kind of deja-vu.

The graphics are beyond ancient … but seeing them again reminds me that at one time this was the best that it got in computer gaming.  I admit it’s going to be hard for me to go back and play this game because the interface … the graphics … the sound … it’s hard to go way back to 1988 when you’ve got an X-Box 360 and an Intel Core i3 laptop sitting on your desk running game software that, if you took either one back to 1978 and showed kids back then what the future would hold their collective heads would have exploded.

Growing up with an Atari console in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, using an Apple IIC for gaming in the early to late ‘80’s, moving to a Nintendo in 1988, going to a PC in 1989, going back to Apple with their Macintosh SE in 1990 and then going all PC in 1992 … yeah, I’ve seen it all and I’ve been there for some of the really great games that have come along and made history and set up ripples in gaming that have been felt even down to this very day.

“Wasteland” was one of those games and this Friday night, after work, I’m going to get a pizza, fill up my Aladdin 52 ounce Mega Mug with syrupy sweet tea, maybe a shot glass or two of my own brand of “snake squeezings” (Jack Daniels Ole No. 9), put Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra” on my iPod playing in the background, cut down the lights and fire up my new GOG copy of “Wasteland” tweaked to run on a contemporary machine … and I’m going to just sit there and be 18 years old again, back in my first year of college, walking the “Wasteland” and being a heavily armed tourist revisiting all the old haunts I remember with guns blazing reducing some mutants to thin red paste.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Bermuda Depths



Some things from your childhood stay with you a long, long time.  For me, one of those things was a made for TV movie called "The Bermuda Depths."

Way back in January 27, 1978 there came a made for TV movie called "The Bermuda Depths".  It was only shown once on TV but it was one of those events in my childhood that I remember even to this day.  I remember watching this movie, sitting spellbound in front of the old console Zenith TV and I remember feeling really, really sad after the movie was over.


"The Bermuda Depths" was a once in a lifetime event and if you missed it as a kid, you missed it and everyone was telling you about it the next day at school.  This was back before VCRs, before DVRs, before the Internet so you couldn't go rent this movie, you couldn't get on a computer and look it up and three months after it aired you couldn't go to a store and buy a copy of it.  Once it played and once it was over it was basically gone forever ... you either saw it or you didn't.  Those who saw it remember it to this day, so my experience has told me.


Check out some of the actors ...


Carl Weathers.  


Connie Sellecca.  


Burl Ives!  


It was Connie Sellecca's first TV appearance and if you were an 8 year old like I was ... whooooo, mama!  





We all know Carl Weathers as "the brother from Rocky" and later as "Action Jackson" and he faced down The Predator in a jungle down in South America.  





"I'm on a boat."

Carl Weathers has always been a bad ass of an actor, at least in my humble opinion.  If anyone can rock the "I've got a Gilligan hat, a speedo and a scoped bazooka with a harpoon loaded in it and I'm about to kick kaiju turtle ass" look, it's my main man Carl Weathers.

Burl Ives?  


He was "Sam the Snowman" in the Rankin Bass "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" children's holiday specials that we grew up loving so much.



Rankin Bass ... The company that brought us the animated "Hobbit" cartoon?  Remember that other unforgettable childhood event?  "The Hobbit" came along late in the 1970's when Dungeons and Dragons was just starting to get cool but I digress ... 


Rankin Bass got with Tsuburaya Productions who was famous for doing the special effects for "Ultraman" (another show I used to get up at 6am every Saturday morning in the '70's and watch on Ted Turner's  SuperStation (WTCG later renamed WTBS).


"The Bermuda Depths" came on only once, as far as I know, and those of us who watched it would always remember it ... for years ... for decades ... afterwards.


Here's a synopsis from IMDB


"Traumatized, orphaned college dropout Magnus Dens returns to Bermuda to find the cause of his father's mysterious death years before. At the Bermuda Biological Station, he finds Eric and Dr. Paulis, friends and colleagues of his late father, and joins them on a quest for gigantic sea creatures. He also meets Jennie Haniver, a mysterious young woman who was once his only childhood friend. Dr. Paulis' housekeeper, an island local, warns Magnus that Jennie is dangerous. The beautiful but vain young woman had sold her soul with the Devil centuries before and lives forever young deep in the waters of the Devil's Triangle (a.k.a. Bermuda Triangle). Nobody heeds the folklore and the researchers trap the giant sea turtle, setting the stage for a deadly confrontation with both minions of the Devil."


Here's a nice amateur review of the movie from Cinema Apocalypse.


Basically "The Bermuda Depths" is a cheap horror / thriller, made for TV but like I said, those of us who, as kids, tuned in and watched it ... well, we never forgot it.  "The Bermuda Depths" isn't just a cheap horror / thriller ... it's a supernatural love story that will break your heart (it did mine when I was a child).  There are many things that I remember about this movie but what I think I remember the most is the theme music.  It had this really sad song called "Jenny" that played in the background and that song stuck in my mind for years afterwards.


Decades after I saw the movie on TV, I keep running into people who remember the movie but never remember the name.  It was like one of those childhood events where, if you weren't there you missed it and that was that.  It took me decades to track down the information on the movie (thank you, Internet) and I finally got a copy of the movie on DVD (TV quality) off Ebay about a decade ago.



What's been neat is how many people I run into that, when we discuss growing up in the 1970's that "the monster turtle movie on TV" always seems to come up in conversation.

If you get a chance to watch this give it some slack ... the FX are done by the same people who did "Ultraman" so the monster / miniature sequences are about on par with a 1970's Godzilla film ... other than that it's a pretty good romp and, like I said, if you were 8 years old when you saw this (like I was), it's something that will stay with you for a long time afterwards ... decades.




A new set of wheels


Some of you may not have heard but I was involved in a really bad car wreck back in November of 2014 (probably why I haven't blogged much).  I lost my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby turbo which I had previously blogged about having bought.  You can read about it here.


Anyway ... I've got a new toy ... another '91 Chevy Corvette.  This one is the third C4 (fourth generation) Corvette that I've owned.  My first C4 was a 1988 Z51 coupe, red with a tan interior and the quirky but heavy duty Doug Nash 4+3 speed manual transmission.  I bought that Vette in 1992 after a failed relationship.  I sold it a year and a half later and regretted it ever since.





Fast forward to 2008.  I'm about to turn 40 years old and I decide that I want another C4 Corvette.  My dad was about to retire from work and he told me in passing that he really wished that I had another Corvette like I had back in college.  

No problem.  


I searched for a few weeks on the Internet, found a 1991 Z07 Corvette down in Miami, bought it, flew down to Miami and drove the Corvette back.




The '91 Z07 at the start of The Tail of the Dragon - Deal's Gap.
318 curves in 11 miles.  Not a problem.




The '91 Z07 at the bottom of Fontana Dam.


It also was a red coupe, tan interior, but it had a six speed manual transmission (which had replaced the 4+3 back in 1989).  I kept that '91 for almost two years then sold it and restored my 1986 black and gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.





I spent almost a year restoring my rare '86 black and gold Pontiac Trans Am (LB9, 700R4, WS6, T-tops, factory Recaro interior) and bought a Lincoln Town Car as my daily driver. 4 years later I sold the Lincoln Town Car (because I'm not a four door car kind of guy) and bought a rare one owner '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby turbo (T-tops, 5 speed, Turbo II engine). 




I kept the Daytona about five months to the day then one morning I woke up behind the wheel of the Dodge, sitting in the median of the highway with EMT and rescue personnel cutting the roof of my Dodge off to get me out. Apparently I had been sitting at a stoplight and a kid in a pickup truck had hit me from behind. I never felt the impact, just woke up when they were pulling my body from what was left of my classic Dodge. 












How I survived I have no idea ... but I did.


While I was in the hospital I started looking for a replacement for the Dodge, could never find one and since I was a two door sports car kind of guy I decided to return to GM.  I chased a '91 Pontiac Firebird Formula with a 5 speed and T-tops (black on black) but miscommunication killed that deal.


That was about the time that I started thinking about another C4 Corvette.  When I sold my last '91 I told my wife that I was swearing off of Corvettes forever and that if I ever said I wanted another Corvette to remind me of what I'd said.


Well, I told her that I wanted another C4 Corvette and she reminded me, in no nice way, of what I'd told her to remind me of years ago.  I also reminded her that before I met her in 1992 that I'd officially sworn off of relationships and women as well ... and look where that got me.


So, I returned to Corvette ownership and bought another C4 ... thought I would go for an automatic since I'd never had a C4 L98 with an auto before.


I didn't know if I would like it ... I was worried that I wouldn't like it ... right up until the moment that an auto transporter company delivered the new '91 white 4 speed automatic Vette to my garage door.




The '91 being delivered to my house.



The '91 white Corvette in the garage ... along with my black / silver 2004 Honda CBR600RR ... and the black and gold '86 Pontiac TA.  Yes, that's a sleeping cop speed bump in front of the Vette ... the previous home owner installed it I guess to keep his wife from driving the minivan through the garage wall and into the living room.  Events like that tend to interrupt "House" marathons with a quickness.

This '91 came from the Venerable and Son dealership out of Walnut Cove, NC and has a Triad Corvette Club membership emblem on the driver's side of the windshield. It also has Loyd's mats, inside door sill protectors and a later model year combo Bose stereo cassette / CD player.  It has what I think is a Clifford alarm system (LED in the center console, some kind of horn hooked up under the hood) but no remotes and no manuals on the alarm system.  If you know this Vette, give me a shout.


So far I'm happy with the '91. It sat up in a climate controlled warehouse for several months not getting driven or cranked so it's about to get a full tune up front to back.


Mods I've found so far include Accel yellow wires under the hood and a strange cat-back system with rectangular tips and tennis ball can sized mufflers / resonators.



It's my new daily driver averaging 28 miles per gallon on the highway.  Not bad for a 25 year old Corvette that has 250 horsepower, 350 lbs-ft of torque, does zero to 60 in about 5 seconds, does mid to high 13 second quarter miles and has a top speed of 157 mph.  I didn't think I would like a white Vette or an automatic but driving it for two weeks now has changed my mind on that ... a white four speed automatic Vette is nothing short of awesome.  Once you push the loud skinny pedal to the floor things get busy real quick and the L98 still has plenty of guts left in her.

As a bit of strangeness, 9 years ago I bought the '86 TA from Greensboro, NC, about 30 miles SE of Walnut Cove so I've got two cars in my garage, both bought off the Internet, which came from within 30 miles of each other. 


Weird but then my life is funny strange like that.


The '91 Vette has its own blog as well ... find it here.





Stay tuned.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

A new comic fancy - "Manifest Destiny"


So I've added yet another comic series to what I'm reading.  Like I've said before, I'm eccentric and my tastes vary.  I don't like superheroes or other nonsense and I don't think of comic books as "kids stuff" ... comics are, to me, an art form.  Growing up in the 1970's and being subjected to adult sci-fi and fantasy like "Heavy Metal" I took on an appreciation for illustrated stories.  Pepe Moreno, Richard Corben, Angus McKee ... all of these taught me that "comics" could be adult and hard hitting.  The only problem is that not until the last ten to fifteen years have comics not only matured to an adult level but they've also reached a point of not being kids stuff any more ... oh, no they're not.

I like my comic art adult and I like it strange so when I pick up a comic and read it and then decide to buy it that comic has something I'm interested in.

Let's be honest here ... I like weird shit.  There's just no other way to say it than that and my latest comic pick pretty much nails that category head on.  In spades.

"Manifest Destiny"

MD is a high aspiring historical revisionist tale of Lewis and Clark's famous expedition.  As they travel through an unknown America they battle monsters and weird shit every step of the way and I love it.  Giant plants, plant zombies, deep lurking river monsters, centaur bisons living in tribes ... some of this stuff is amazing in concept and the execution does not fail.

The first trade paperback is out and collects several of the first run comics.  I highly recommend it especially since the second trade paperback is due out soon.  Give it a looksee and chances are, if your tastes are like mine, you'll be a lot of not unhappy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A new fancy: "East of West"


I was at Bombshell Comics in Hattiesburg the other day, seeing if a new "Prophet" had come in and I got invited to peruse a new offering ... "East of West".  It's a post apocalyptic western that mixes "Call of Cthulhu", "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Bladerunner" all together in a delightful blend.



In other words, it's my kind of weird and I have pretty high standards for weird.

It's an alternate America.  Sometime during the American Civil War a comet hit North America forever changing the world.  America is divided into high tech versions of the Union, the Confederacy, Texas, a nation of Freedmen (ex-slaves), the Endless Nations (all the Indian tribes joined together) and an outcast of China which has established a new Chinese empire on the west coast.

All are divided into their areas and at the center point where all of their territories meet is the impact crater of the comet.

Basically the story involves the end times, a group called "The Chosen" which is a cult trying to bring about the end of the world and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Only, it's the three Horsemen because when Pestilence, Famine and Conquest awaken they find that Death has already awakened and been working for some time without them.  In fact, Death has found his soul mate, fallen in love, had a child and had his wife and child stolen from him.


This has tended to make Death a little pissed off.

Death finds that not only has he been betrayed, but that his wife and child are both alive.





His son has been kidnapped and is being groomed to be the "Beast of the Apocalypse" in an isolation facility where the child is being programmed by "The Chosen" as the ultimate weapon and conqueror of the world, a living means to the end of the world.



Death itself is a pretty neat character.  He's dressed all in white, from head to toe, long white hair, white albino skin and he carries traditional, albeit, high-tech western style weaponry.  



He reminds me a lot of Michael Moorcock's "Elric" if "Elric" had been cast to play the title role in "The Outlaw Josey Wales."  Death has some great lines in the comic, one of my favorite being his retort to one of the major power brokers in the storyline when he tells him "I beg to fucking differ." which itself made me chuckle out loud.  Not since "Firefly" and Captain Malcolm Reynolds have I liked a character as much as I've started liking this personification of Death.

This is what weird science fiction westerns should be about / like.



Death is a bad ass and stares down entire armies.  He wades through legions with six guns blazing, riding a mechanical robot horse that has a head that fires a devastating beam that reminds me of the hyperwave gun on the Space Battleship Yamato.  In other words, he's well equipped to deal his trade.

Death is travelling with two companions, "Crow" and "Wolf", both extremely powerful witches from the Endless Nations ... 




Crow is something not human, a female in shape only that can turn into a cloud of black crows that tear the eyes out of her enemies and tear them apart.  Wolf is an Indian who turns into a pack of white wolves that, well, pretty much tear his enemies apart.  Death, therefore, goes into battle aided by lots of snarling white wolves and a black cloud of killer crows.  It's magic, it fits, and when it happens it's effective.

And then there's the Cthulhu-like horror



There's mystical and mythical and just plain Lovecraftian-type plots going on.  Stories within stories, arcs within arcs.  Not since reading "Jonah Hex" as a child or the late '70's / early '80's of "Heavy Metal" magazine have I found something that catches my fancy like this story does (well, this and "Prophet").

So, it's good to be a kid again.

I don't read many comics but when I do, they're good ones.

I have high standards for weird and "East of West", so far, fulfills all of those standards and exceeds expectations.  If your tastes in weird run close to mine, give it a try.  "East of West" may make you a lot of not unhappy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Late birthday gift to myself

Broke down and bought these for myself.  





I've had Fantasy Flight Games' "X-Wing" for about two years now.  I've not really played it ... just haven't had time.  Our old game group (mostly guys I work with) really haven't gotten together in a year or so ... so, no games.  So far I've got the starter set (one X-wing and two TIE fighters) and the Millennium Falcon expansion pack (got it mostly just for the miniature).  At $15 bux a piece, the miniatures had kind of hit a price limit for me.  They're good, really good miniatures but $15 is a bit much for me.  Now I've found a dealer selling them for $10 each and free shipping on orders so I'm giving myself the go ahead to start building my fleet and get this game rolling.




These will be the start of my X-Wing game miniatures collection which I plan on adding to each paycheck as well as making some custom capital ships / freighters / support craft through kitbashing.  The Tantive IV is one of my favorite ships in all of sci-fi shipdom.  My 8 year old mind fell in love with that hammerhead shape and those eleven blazing engines as soon as I saw it on the silver screen way back in 1977 and ever since then I've been looking for a good sized replica of this classic ship.  About two years ago I broke down and bought the $300 27 inch long Rand Cooper Tantive IV (currently saving up for his $500 38 inch long Imperial Star Destroyer) but haven't put it together yet.  Here's a Tantive IV in much smaller scale (still large) and it's prepainted and assembled so right out of the box it's a display unit.  I'll probably only have one Tantive IV in my collection but I've got up to three Rebel transports ear-marked for the collection and this will be my first one.  The local hobby shop wanted $50 for the Transport and $90 for the Tantive IV which, again, was a bit much in my book (and for my wallet).  I spend some pretty money pretty fast sometimes but even I'm prone to waiting until the price falls or shopping around for the best price.  I like to support my local shops but going online I saved about $40 on these two items (the Transport was $40 and the Tantive IV was $60).  That savings gives me enough money to either add four fighters to my collection or another Rebel Transport (and I've found an online shop that I'm going to give a lot of business to in the months to come).

So, that's the update.  Happy late birthday to me and it was a pretty good birthday with me buying myself the '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby back in June and now, two months later, these two sets of expansion miniatures.

Prophet!

It's not often that I collect a series of comic books and usually when I do it's a short-run series like Miller and Darrow's "Hard Boiled" or something like Delgado's "Hieroglyph" or Steve White and Dan Abnett's "Hypersonic" but every once in a while, thank you life, there comes another series which I adore.  Luckily I found this one about two years back but didn't start collecting it until this month (which meant that I had to catch up).  



Prophet is the story of John Prophet, a modified / vat grown super soldier (think Captain America) who wakes up from stasis / hybernation on Earth so far in the future that nothing is recognizable to him.  Time, alien races and cosmic events have forever altered the planet, even the galaxy.  John Prophet is not alone, he is one of many John Prophets, some altered genetically for different environments or situations and each as a mission.

The Empire of Man is returning, rising in power, and hell is to be paid.

I can't tell you very much about this other than if you like classic 1970's style Angus McKee, Richard Corben, Moebius and Moreno artwork like that once found in the pages of "Metal Hurlant" ("Heavy Metal" to us Americans) then Prophet is for you.  Just flipping through the pages and looking at the artwork takes me back in time to when art ... comic art ... was hand drawn and not done on computers.  It's crude, brutal and wonderful, not glossy, sedate and precise.  I've ranted about art, especially sci-fi art, and how in it moving into the digital age it has lost a lot of what made it so great.  There's no soul, no emotion anymore in sci-fi art and it shows.  The same can be said of modern sci-fi comic books.  Everything is so clean, antiseptic, mundane and predictable.




Not so with Prophet.




Prophet is the telling of an epic story, tens of thousands of years, with characters that have started in another age of comics (the 1990s) and off and on appeared in several series then had their selves thrown into a reboot in the far future, a future so wonderfully bizarre that you wish that someone would make a movie of it.



Carnivorous aliens, symbiotes, parasites, adaptive membranes, interspecies sex, living rock people, living metal robots, crystal sentients, sapient fungus ... Prophet has something for everyone and a surprise for all.  The artwork is amazing in scope and depth, it's like looking at Darrow's work on "Hard Boiled" ... every time you go back and look at it you see something you missed.

John Prophet is an interesting character but so far I'm drawn more to Diehard, a cyborg shell that is over 10,000 years old.   A man from the 1990's, his body was replaced after his death and his cyborg form lives on.  Several stories tell of Diehard's past, some of when he was still a man, others when he was living on some planet with some adoptive race and had a family.  The fact that Diehard is replacing parts of himself with organic parts taken from dead John Prophet clones is intriguing.  At one point he has a human heart beating in his chest cavity (something he hasn't had for thousands of years) and later he can speak again due to adding one of the clone's vocal cords to his design.  You would think that if a machine was operating just fine without a human heart (and for thousands of years) why would it need to install one now?  Also, why does it need vocal cords to communicate which it could just have a speaker to project an artificial voice.

I may find this out yet.

If you want to pick up on Prophet, you can do so now quickly and cheaply.  There are 45 issues of Prophet dating back to the early '90's but the current restart didn't happen until issue 21.  There are 45 issues now meaning that you need to start at issue 21 and catch up.  That means that you have 24 issues to grab.  This isn't hard since on Amazon there are three trade paperbacks which capture issues 21 to 38 leaving you only with 39 to 45.  I bought the trade paperbacks (about 10 bux each) and then found the other back issues at my local hobby shop for face price.

If you like weird sci-fi, were once a fan of the old Heavy Metal magazine and like stuff like Delgado's "Hieroglyph" then you'll dig Prophet.  Each issue is a page turning treat that leaves you waiting impatiently for next month and the next issue.