Tag Archives: marvel comics

My Life Update: On Snoring And Digital Comics

When last we chatted I was going through a couple of major life changes. One, I had decided it was time to stop keeping everyone around me awake at night by dealing with my snoring problem, and more importantly, I had made the switch to digital comics and had left behind my weekly trip to the comic book store. Let’s see how things have changed in just two short months.

Luke, I’m Your Father

So, having passed (or failed, depending on how you look at it) my sleep apnea test, the next step was hooking me up with a CPAP (Crap Personal Asphyxiation Program) machine. I call the lady and she says I can come in and have a training session or they will send one out with an instructional DVD. Of course they’re not open on weekends and I don’t want to shuffle around my work schedule anymore so I tell them to FedEx it to me.

A few days later a box arrives on my doorstep. Inside is a machine, a carrying case, several instruction booklets, several forms, tubing, filters, more tubing, more filters, and a DVD. I start looking through an instruction book and am quickly overwhelmed.

Something they don’t tell you in the beginning is that a CPAP machine has many parts that require constant care and maintenance. I’m too lazy to shave every morning and they want me to daily wash and rinse and clean out the tubing and the mask and the filters and the humidifier tray (which only takes distilled water, naturally). And I’m supposed to wash my hands like a surgeon before handling this stuff. Going to bed, which used to be just  brush-teeth-undress-crawl-into-bed, has now become an ordeal.

What the hell? Why is all this necessary?

“Because if you don’t keep the equipment clean bacteria could build up and get blown up your nose and into your brain and kill you.”

Oh, well that’s so much better than snoring. I’m so grateful. I won’t be worrying about that now for the rest of my life.

I check in with the 3 people I know who use these monstrosities and they all give me different answers as to how seriously I should take upkeep and maintenance — based mainly on how long they’ve been using it. None of them have died of brain bacteria yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

I put in the DVD. It starts out with a couple recreating their experience with sleep apnea. I don’t give a shit, just tell me how to hook up the machine. Next, a lecture on what sleep apnea is. I don’t give a shit, just tell me how to hook up the machine. Next, a segment on your body and how it reacts to sleep and the causes of FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST TELL ME HOW TO HOOK UP MY MACHINE….

Finally we get to the instructions. “Not all machines are alike so you may need to consult with your instruction manual for more details.” The machine in the video was nothing like mine.

The next day I’m calling the Apria people, setting up a meeting, and reworking my work schedule.

000_0379The 45-minute one-on-one goes well and I go home confident I can make it work. That night I wash everything up, plug everything in, affix plastic tubes up my nose, lie down on my back, and wait for the sweet release of sleep. I was told that a CPAP machine ranges from a setting of 4 which is the lowest to 20 which is the highest. According to my sleep study, mine needed to be set at 18. For those with math anxiety, that’s just 2 short of the maximum rate that they can blow air up your nose.

Is it comfortable? Oh, God, no. Do you get used to it? I hope to God some day, but that day hasn’t come yet. Do you sleep through the night? For the most part. I’m usually wake up around 5 or 6 and can’t stand having this thing on my face anymore so I rip it off and lay there for a bit then get up. Sleeping in on weekends is a thing of the past.

So, are there any advantages? Well, I don’t feel tired all the time. I don’t fall asleep on the couch when I sit still for 10 minutes. I haven’t fallen asleep during a movie screening in weeks — and if I can stay awake through “Going In Style,” then things have definitely changed. My blood pressure is down, my back pain has decreased significantly, I seem to have more energy, I don’t wake up in the night and toss and turn. I don’t get up to use the bathroom multiple times a night. I’m blogging more. I guess those are advantages. Of course, if I die from bacteria I’m not sure if it will have been worth it.

Oh, there’s one other thing that comes from this: My wife is very, very, very, very, very, very happy.

So I’ll stick with it.

Welcome Back To The Comic Book Shop, Jimmy Dean

Those of you who pay attention will recall that back in January Marvel Comics ended their practice of including a code for a digital copy of any of their comic books that you bought. I was not happy, as this meant I would now have to choose between buying digital or physical comics. I went with digital, because they’re easier to read and store, but this meant my weekly trip to the comic book shop was no more.

I was devastated. None of you seemed to care.

marvel-digital-code-350x217Well, in what must be the quickest business turnaround since the death of New Coke, Marvel has announced that they are bringing back free digital copies when you buy their comics.

The program starts back up in May (just in time for Free Comic Book Day). This means there will now be an odd 3 month gap in my comic book collection for future archaeologists to puzzle over.

So now I can go back to the comic shop every Wednesday and browse and buy and not talk to the shop owner and pick up any freebies lying around.  I will have to buy new bookshelves — hey, maybe from IKEA! — and let them stack up in my basement until the day I die at which point my poor wife will look around and cry out, “What am I going to do with all these damn comic books?!”

And I’ll look up from where I’m spending eternity and say “That’s what you get for making me go to bed every night with that face-hugging, air-blowing mask on my face.”







The End Of The World As I Know It

The first comic book shop I ever set foot in was probably the one in downtown Springfield, Missouri. It wasn’t really a comic book shop, it was an old, used bookstore, but in the window it had a sign: ‘Marvel Comics On Sale Here.’

I don’t remember how I got there — downtown was not a spot we ever visited in Springfield — but get there I did. It was old and musty with books stacked unevenly and all over. Classic old, used bookstore. But in one area were a couple of shelves with all new comics. Not the spinner-racks I was used to at Wood’s supermarket. Next to the shelves were stacks of old comics.

A store that specialized in selling comic books. What a wonderful idea. I wonder if it will catch on.

imagesSurprisingly, It did. The first comic book shop I was  frequent customer of was Rock Bottom Books and Comics in Columbia, Missouri. It was within walking distance of the dorm so I would trek there often to peruse the new comics. I still had a subscription to ‘Avengers’ and ‘X-Men’ back home so I didn’t need to actually buy any comics, but that didn’t stop me from walking up the long stairway to Rock Bottom and while away the hours looking through the spinner racks. I was young back then and didn’t see any problem with going into a store and reading their books and not buying anything. Eventually my subscriptions ran out and I did turn my business over to Rock Bottom.

There have been many other shops over the years, and even more locations (comic book shops tend to move around a lot). While living in Springfield I sometimes visited Duckburg Comics. Years later it would turn out the owners of that shop would be our frequent companions at LawyerCon.

When The Wife had a job interview in St. Charles I went along for the ride. While she was interviewing I went for a walk on Main Street and discovered the St. Charles Journal, where I would soon go to work, and FBN: The Fantasy Shop, a comic book shop just down the street. (FBN, I eventually learned, stood for “Fly By Night,” the Rush song) The Fantasy Shop went on to become the McDonald’s of comic book shops in St. Louis, with locations all over. They dropped the FBN moniker.

There are a surprising number of comic book shops in St. Louis. I admit I haven’t even been to all of them. For the most part I split my money between The Fantasy Shop, now in its third location since I moved here, and Comic Book Relief, which is next door to Beer, Bait & Bullets.

If you watch “The Big Bang Theory” you know that new comics arrive at the shop once a week. The day has changed over the years but for some time now New Comic Book Day is Wednesday. It makes for a nice break in the work week. Every Wednesday I pick up my son after work and we drive to FS or CBR, I rifle through the new books, check out any new merchandise, pick up a book or two along with the Comic Shop News (it’s free, as it should be because it’s not really worth paying for), pay the man at the cash register (it’s usually a  man) and be on my way.

It’s been part of my routine for almost 40 years.

The Internet, as we all know, has ruined everything. A few years back publishers started making comic books available in a digital format. Rather than buying a physical, paper comic book as God intended, you could download one off a website and read it on your computer.

What a stupid idea. Who wants to read a comic book on a computer? How inconvenient is that? Then tablets came along and suddenly it was maybe more convenient but still, why would you give up your comic book for a digital file on a computer?

marvel-digital-code-350x217Once digital comics took off, Marvel started offering free codes in its comics. Type the 10-digit code into your computer and you’d get a free digital copy of that comic. I still wasn’t sold. I continued buying my comics and ignoring the codes. Then one day Marvel had a special deal where you could download like 300 comics for free. Suddenly, digital comics didn’t seem so stupid.

I went through the various hoops and downloaded several books. I then proceeded to read them on my son’s Ipad. HOLY CRAP. This is awesome! The art is crisper. The colors are more vibrant. And best of all, you can zoom in on individual panels and blow up images as large as you like — making it significantly easier for old, cataracted, eyes to read the captions.

Digital comics, where have you been all my life?

I quickly began downloading every code in every comic I had that had not already expired. I now had a new weekly routine. Go to the comic book shop, buy a comic, bring it home and read it, download the digital copy, put the comic on the shelf, and hereafter re-read it in digital. It was the best of both worlds. So naturally it couldn’t last.

Last month Marvel announced that it would no longer include a free digital copy of the comic you just bought. I feared this day would come. Nothing good lasts forever.

Here now my dilemma: Do I continue as before, going to the comic shop every week and picking up a book or two and taking them home and reading them and eventually sticking them on a shelf or in a box…or do I come home, fire up the computer, go to Marvel.com and purchase a digital copy? I’m not going to do both.

000_0368Think about this people. This is no minor thing. Since childhood I have collected comics.I never stopped. Some sissies quit around high school and go back around college. Not me. I have them (not bagged and boarded, what a stupid thing) in two tall bookshelves, two short bookshelves, eight boxes in the unfinished part of the basement, two boxes in the bedroom closet, two dresser drawers in the bedroom, several stacked on my nightstand near the bed, and a few stacked on the living room end table. That’s not counting my graphic novels. I have comics from England and Ireland and Scotland and probably half the states in the union.

If I go digital, that all stops. No more “Where’s my comic book?” and “Why did you draw on my comic book?” and “Who tore the cover off my comic book?” The poor soul who inherits my comic book collection will find unexpected stops in the current runs of “Black Widow,” “Occupy Avengers” and “All New X-Men.” My wife will be the happiest person alive.

But it’s not just the loss of the physical item. What about my routine? Going to the comic book shop wasn’t just going shopping. It was like going to church, but without the preaching and that horrible contemporary Christian music that has ruined church. It was a hump-day break from the unending depression of work. And the social aspect — “How’z it goin’?” says the man behind the counter. “OK,” says I. “That’ll be $4.23.” “Hold on, I think I have some change.” “Thanks for coming in!”

No, I don’t know the names of any of the clerks or shop owners that I have dealt with weekly for the past 25 years. I’m not my wife. And no, I don’t talk to the fellow customers. Have you been in a comic book shop? Nerds. All nerds.

But they’re my nerds. And while I won’t miss them, I will miss the experience. I mean, I’m not a college freshman anymore, I can’t just show up every week, rifle through the new books, and walk out.

And so I must face the future. The advantages of digital are too great to ignore. I can store hundreds of comics in the space that one would take up today. They’re easier to read and so much nicer to look at. I can read digital comics on my phone, which means I can read them anywhere — sitting in a waiting room, waiting for the movie to start, in the bathroom at work — the possibilities are endless. My only fear now is a power outage. Or the Internet explodes.


(I told you you wouldn’t care about it, assuming you made it this far)









Marvel Takes A Whiz On Missouri

In comic shops tomorrow is the first issue of USAvengers, Marvel’s latest attempt at milking dry their most popular franchise. The premise this go-round is a government-sanctioned Avengers team made up of second-and-third stringers like Red Hulk, Squirrel Girl and Pod. It should last about as long as its predecessor, New Avengers, which I believe ran 12 issues.

To build up excitement for the new book — and inflate sales figures — Marvel is releasing the first issue with a whopping 52 different covers, one for every state in the union as well as Puerto Rico and Canada. It’s a cute idea, I suppose, but the main problem is that 92 percent of all Marvel superheroes live in New York and hardly any live in any of the other 49 states, not to mention Puerto Rico and Canada.

Still, a gimmick is a gimmick, so some poor editor at Marvel got the job of divvying up 52 superheroes for this silly stunt. Some make sense — Thor actually works as the Avenger of Oklahoma because for a time he moved Asgard to Oklahoma. Everyone knows Cannonball is from Kentucky, and yes it makes sense for Luke Cage to be the Avenger of New York even though we all know it should really be Spider-Man. I have no idea how Russian spy Black Widow became the Avenger of Connecticut.

Naturally I was curious as to who Marvel would pick for the Avenger of Missouri. I, of course, know who the Avenger of Missouri should be —  but would Marvel get it right?

u-s-avengers_vol_1_1_missouri_variantOf course not. I give you — the Avenger of Missouri — Robert Frank, aka The Whizzer. That’s right, there’s a superhero called The Whizzer and he’s all ours. If you think the name is stupid, wait until you hear his origin story. Little Bob Frank was bitten by a cobra while in Africa with his father. Dad saves Bobby by injecting him with mongoose blood, which not only neutralizes the cobra venom but somehow gives him the power of super speed (and you thought it was the power of super urination). Since the name “The Flash” was already taken, Bob took on the second-best possible name for a super speedster — The Whizzer.

No, this is not a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation. The Whizzer actually pre-dates the Marvel Universe. He was created in 1941, back when Marvel was known as Timely Comics. So important and significant to the Golden Age of Comics was the Whizzer that no one knows who wrote his first adventure (it was drawn by Al Avison). He ran around for a bit in the ’40s then disappeared like many Golden Age heroes when the ’50s rolled in.

The Whizzer briefly resurfaced in 1974 in The Avengers, mistakenly believing he’s the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (Imagine Pietro’s relief that he did not get stuck with the name Whizzer Junior). Bob teamed up with Earth’s Mightiest a few times but was never really a member in any meaningful sense. He eventually died of a heart attack and hasn’t been seen since. Which, given the resurrection rate of most superheroes, tells you all you need to know about how beloved is The Whiz.

Bob Frank supposedly is from St. Louis, hence the Missouri connection. I have never read any of the original Whizzer comics from the ’40s, so I don’t know if this was truly the case in the comics or if it’s something someone made up later.

Frankly it doesn’t matter. While The Whizzer might be an appropriate representative for St. Louis, the rest of the state deserves better. And we have better, but Marvel is withholding the truth from you.

But the truth shall be revealed. Tomorrow.






At The Comic Book Shop: All New Hawkeye 1

There’s a new Hawkeye title on the stands this week and as usual I’m here to beg you to buy it so that there will be another issue out next month.

All-New_Hawkeye_Vol_1_1_TextlessNow those of you with long memories may be saying, “I thought there was already a Hawkeye comic out and it was doing pretty well and winning awards and getting lots of praise. What happened to it?”

Well, welcome to the world of comic book publishing. It seems the previous volume of “Hawkeye,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja, ran into some scheduling problems oh, about a year ago, and the last issue still hasn’t gone to press. Apparently tired of waiting, Marvel hired a new creative team to put out a new “Hawkeye” comic while we wait for the old one to finish.

Marvel Comics: Professionalism in Meeting Publishing Deadlines is Not Our Superpower.

I’ll say more about this when they finally get around publishing the last issue of the Fraction/Aja “Hawkeye,” but for now let’s deal with the issue at hand.

HAWKEYE2015001-DC41-0fa85“All New Hawkeye” No. 1 is by the all new team of Jeff Lemire (writer) and Ramon Perez (artist). It picks up where the previous volume left off (one assumes, since the previous volume isn’t finished): Clint Barton (Hawkeye) is still getting into trouble with Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) and there is a lot of verbal sparring as they take aim at the hordes of Hydra.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has sent them on a mission to find a secret weapons cache and this opening issue probably has more traditional superhero action than all of the previous volume put together. Meanwhile a separate storyline looks at Clint and his brother Barney when they were young. Apparently they liked to catch frogs.

I’m not really that interested in Clint’s childhood but the current day story looks promising. The dialogue and character work is spot on. Perez draws the flashbacks in a watercolor style while the Hydra story is more cartoonish and slightly reminiscent of Aja.

All in all a promising start to this latest chapter in the Hawkeye saga.

Guardians_Team-Up_Vol_1_1ALSO OF NOTE:  The first issue of “Guardians Team Up” came out this week. It’s a Guardians of the Galaxy team up book, which just shows you how much Marvel thinks they can milk out of the unexpected success of the GOTG movie. A year ago you couldn’t get anyone to buy a Guardians comic and now they’re doing spin-offs.

For their inaugural issue the Guardians have chosen to team up with — who else? — The Avengers. Hawkeye plays a pretty prominent role in the story which is good. There’s a fair amount of humor as you’d expect. It’s written by Brian Michael Bendis but the real draw is artist Art Adams. Adams is one of the great comic book artists working today and he doesn’t do a lot of books so when he does one you’d best pick it up.


Test Your Capology

You should know how this works by now. Twenty questions. Answers tomorrow. Show the world how well you know the Star Spangled Avenger.

1. Captain America made his debut in:

(a) Star Spangled Comics 1 (b) All Star Comics 39 (c) Captain America Comics 1 (d) Action Comics 12

kirby-capn2. True/False: Captain America was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

3. Captain America’s shield is made out of:

(a) Adamantium (b) Herculanium (c) Uru (d) an experimental alloy of steel and Vibranium

4. What super team did Captain America serve on that was published in the 1940s

(a) The All Winners Squad (b) The Allies (c) The Justice Society (d) The Invaders

5. Who of the following has NOT been Captain America:

(a) Bucky Barnes (b) John Hancock (c) William Naslund (d) Jeffrey Mace (e) Steve Rogers (f) William Burnside (g) John Walker

6. Who of the following has NOT been Cap’s sidekick Bucky:

(a) Bucky Barnes (b) Jack Monroe (c) Rick Jones (d) Rikki Barnes (e) Tim Drake

7. True/False: Captain America is a founding member of The Avengers

alan-davis-captain-america-no-9-cover-sharon-carter8. Sharon Carter, Agent 13 with S.H.I.E.L.D., is also:

(a) Peggy Carter’s little sister (b) Peggy Carter’s niece (c) a or b, depending on when you read Captain America comics.

9. True/False: J.D. Salinger’s son Matt played Captain America in a 1990 movie that went straight to video.

10. For many years the title of Captain America’s letters page was:

(a) Captain Ameri-mail (b) Let’s Rap With Cap (c) Star Spangled Missives (d) All American Mail

11. True/False: Steve Rogers gave up being Cap for a time in the ’70s after he learned Richard Nixon was running an evil organization.

12. After his resignation, Rogers briefly takes on a new superhero role as:

(a) The Captain (b) Iron Patriot (c) Nomad (d) Super Soldier

13. True/False: During the Marvel Civil War, Captain America was pro-superhero  registration.

14. True/False: Captain America never killed anyone during World War II

15. Complete the song lyric: When Captain America throws his mighty shield …

16. The first African-American superhero in mainstream comic books was:

(a) Black Panther (b) The Falcon (c) Black Lightning (d) Luke Cage, Power Man

250px-TheFalcon17. What is The Falcon’s pet falcon’s name?

(a) Redwing (b) Woodstock (c) Freedom (d) Challenger

18. When he’s not Captain America, Steve Rogers works as:

(a) bricklayer (b) accountant (c) artist (d) Captain America has no other life

19. True/False: Captain America was the first Marvel Comics character to be adapted to other media.

20. Captain America’s fan club in the 1940s was known as:

(a) Cap’s Clubhouse (b) Sentinels of Liberty (c) Cap’s Commandos (d) All Winners Squad


What’s On Ronnie’s Calendars 102013

Welcome to Chapter 10 of the 2013 edition of What’s On Ronnie’s Calendars.


Nova_1_Cover_02Traditionally, October is the month of monsters and witches and whatnot given that it’s the month of Halloween. So naturally my Marvel freebie calendar dedicates the month to Nova.

I could not possibly care less about Nova. Didn’t care about him when they launched him back in the ’80s, or maybe it was the late ’70s. I don’t even care enough to look it up. And I don’t care now. If you would like to learn more about Nova, visit Wikipedia.


OMFG-LOKI-LOKI-LOKI.My Avengers movie calendar gave over the month to the villain of the film, which I guess is more appropriate for the month in question.

Loki is one of my favorite villains. I like that whole love/hate thing he has going with his step-brother, Thor. I also love that ridiculous Jack Kirby-designed horned helmet. It’s hard to believe that out of all the costume designs that Hollywood has screwed over since comic book movies became the rage, this one they didn’t touch.

What’s On Ronnie’s Calendars 082013

Time marches on and we keep track of it with our monthly segment, What’s On Ronnie’s Calendars. Today: What Super-types will represent the Dog Days of Summer?


Wow. Finally something new to talk about. I’m pretty sure we’ve never covered the Thunderbolts in this segment, but here they are gracing my freebie Marvel calendar.

2805223-2589826_thunderbolts_1_cvrThunderbolts has a long, unusual history. The team first appeared in the late ’90s with the gimmick that they were a bunch of supervillains pretending to be superheroes. Some of them decided they liked being heroes and with the help of Hawkeye they became an underground superhero team. The book was revamped a half-dozen times but usually kept the villains-as-heroes theme in some form.

The latest and current version features the Punisher, Electra, Deadpool and Venom being led by the Red Hulk, aka  Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross. Get it — Thunderbolt Ross is leading a team called Thunderbolts! You  just know whoever thought that up at Marvel was ridiculously pleased with himself.

I don’t know much about the New Thunderbolts. The only time I ever read the comic was when Hawkeye was in it.

Black Widow

detailThe beautiful but deadly Natasha Romanov is in the spotlight this month on my Avengers movie calendar. This is not the image on the calendar. For some reason Google image search couldn’t find it. It is, however, just a blown up version of the picture of Natasha that’s in the group shot that ran back in June so check the archives if you care. How lazy were the people who made this calendar that they keep referencing the same art in the same product?

Black Widow fans will be pleased to know that she will be featured prominently in next year’s “Captain America” sequel. Poor Nat. Always the guest star, never the star. Joss Whedon has also promised she will play a major part in The Avengers sequel.