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By Nate VanLindt On 5 Mar, 2017 At 06:12 PM | Categorized As Books, Editorials, Featured | With 0 Comments

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Since the advent of Harry Potter, the popularity of teen and children’s writers has skyrocketed.  As many adults are reading these books as kids are and bookstores have assembled whole sections of their stores for the wide variety of teen material available.  Much of the volume of material available tends towards teen science fiction and fantasy, following in the Potter and Hunger Games trends.  Other writers have branched out into suspense and even horror.  But this isn’t a new genre.  A few spectacular writers broke ground in these genres decades ago.  One of these early few was the esteemed young adult writer John Bellairs. 

Bellairs wrote several books in the mid to late 60s, ranging from religious parody to fantasy.   In the early 1970s, he wrote a dark fantasy novel for adults, but publishers recommended he rewrite the book for young readers and in 1973, The House With a Clock in its Walls was born.  With artwork by the legendary artist Edward Gorey, The House With a Clock in its Walls found immediate success.

Bellairs’ flair for the macabre along with Gorey’s edgy panels drew together a uniquely dark story.   His characters were realistic, flawed, and captivating.  The villains had no issues torturing and killing children, much like the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales and this stark look at the supernatural underbelly of 1950s New England went on to win 5 literary awards between 1973 and 1982.  He went on to win 13 more awards for his other books as well.  But Bellairs wasn’t done.

He went on to write a total of 15 children’s horror novels primarily focusing on three main characters.  Of those 15 books, 12 were stunningly illustrated by Edward Gorey.  Notably, the Dial hardcover library editions of Bellairs’ books feature wraparound dust jacket artwork by Gorey and a unique font, creating a wondrous and foreboding atmosphere before even opening the books themselves.

What’s truly remarkable about Bellairs’ work, however, is how enduring it is and how well it has aged.  Each book comes in at around 150-200 pages, but the length belies the quality of the content.  Evil wizards and sorcerers abound and time travel, human sacrifice, and Armageddon are common themes.  They aren’t simply dark, though.  The characters are well-written, the stories cohesive and self-contained.  For an adult going back to re-read these books, they have managed to stay compelling and powerful and should be a must-read for the kid who loves a scary story in all of us.

John Bellairs died in 1991 at the age of 53, but he left a legacy of fiction for all of us to treasure.  Several movies and shows have been made of his work based on The House With a Clock in its Walls and The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, but they are extremely difficult to locate and have low production value.  Eric Kripke, of Supernatural fame, has been rumored to be working on a current movie adaptation of The House With a Clock in its Walls, but the project has yet to have materialized.  Kripke is said to have been inspired by Bellairs’ work as a child.  With any luck, a modern movie of Bellairs’ seminal work will inspire a whole new generation in the years to come. 

For those that are interested, most of John Bellairs’s books are in print (and have been continuously since their release) and available on Amazon or at your local library.  An original set of the Dial hardcover library editions can run upwards of $500.00 on eBay, even for ex-library copies.  A fan tribute website still runs to this day.

 

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By SarahTheRebel On 20 Sep, 2013 At 03:15 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarFirst appeared on www.NerdyButFlirty.com

Kiss Me, Satan is a new series by Victor Gischler (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike—A Dark Place, Punisher MAX, X-Men) and Juan Ferreyra (Colder, Rex Mundi).

I’m really enjoying the story so far. It’s a very grown-up fairy tale story, but not too mature to have some fun. I get a very Dogma vibe, and since that’s one of my favorite movies, I take it as a good sign. All-in-all, the writing is engaging and fun, and I can’t wait to see how our ‘heroes’ get out of this one.

As for the art, it’s just perfect. Dark, saturated, intricate and, at times, disgusting. Oh yes, be warned that this comic is graphic. I’m loving the character designs and the ingenious way Ferreyra is able to capture the essence of a monster in a human face. For example, the werewolves actually kind of have dog-like faces when they’re human, allowing one to instantly recognize which mystical species you’re looking at.

The first issue was a fun, action-filled, supernatural ride, and I can’t wait for issue two!

Free Preview

kissmesatan

Plot

Cassian Steele is the boss of the werewolf mafia in the Big Easy, and he’s got a problem. The old witch Verona knows his secret and has gone into hiding. Cassian wants her dead. So he sends out the word: An open contract. The first monster to dust Verona gets a big payday. What no one realizes is that Barnabus Black, a demon desperately trying to regain his halo, is her protection.

The Deets

Writer: Victor Gischler

Artist: Juan Ferreyra

Cover Artist: Dave Johnson

Buy it here!

By Charles On 31 Dec, 2012 At 05:11 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWell, that’s that: the curtain falls on 2012. An interesting year, in many regards: the WiiU finally gets released (and no, I don’t have one), portable gaming enters a new phase, and gigantic film projects see the light of day.

I spent most of it traveling. Cons, cons and more cons- I hit 14 this year- distracted me from much of the nerd-sphere in 2012. But I still managed to experience a few notable contributions to the geek canon this year. Quality over quantity, I would hope.

wreck-it-ralphWreck-It Ralph: What kind of world do we live in today? A few years ago, Pixar was at the forefront of Disney Animation, producing some of the best animated films in this country, and destroying Dreamworks right and left. (Dragons? pssh, not when we got Buzz Lightyear to save the day!) Then chief creator John Lasseter was pulled out of Pixar, given full control over Disney’s entire animation department, and set loose to change the future of the company. In 2011, Pixar gave us Cars 2, and Disney unveiled Tangled.

In 2012, Pixar gave us Brave, and while that was a heartwarming, beautiful fable about the love between mother and daughter, it didn’t hold a candle to what Lassie threw at us in November.

Like Toy Story before it, Wreck-It Ralph was a loving tribute to the bond between man and machine, gamer and game, player and toy. But it was so much more than that. It was an open greeting to gamers from any generation, be it the old arcade days, or the new shooter co-op networkers. It was a massive in-joke, targeted at both the children flocking to see the huge-handed antihero save the day, and the parents “dragged” along to chaperone. It was an alternative to the father/daughter dynamic that Disney championed all through the 90s. It was by far the BEST VIDEO GAME MOVIE EVER MADE! Why? Because unlike any adaptation or “re-invention” of a classic story, Wreck It Ralph wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t-  it was a film about games, for the people who play them. It wasn’t even a video game movie, really, it was a movie about the love and power of video games themselves.

My only question now is, “When Can I See You Again?”

the-dark-knight-rises-vs-the-avengersSummer Superhero Blockbusters: I refuse to acknowledge Avengers vs Dark Knight Rises. That’s just not a fair comparison. Both films embodied their respective “genres” and “publisher” perfectly, from Avengers’ bombast and pitched battles, to the cerebral brilliance of Bane. Both films managed to conjure powerful emotions, and keep me rooted to my seat through multiple viewings. Both films left me feeling infinitely satisfied, and yet yearning for more More MORE.

If last year’s crop of hero films set the bar high, this year’s made it impossible to reach. That’s really all that can be said, now that the dust has settled (and the BluRays are on repeat). Given Marvel’s track record these past two years, the sequels might live up to the newly wrought hype, but if not, it doesn’t really matter either. And despite there being news of a new Batman franchise (to lead into a Justice League counter to Marvel’s majesty), I’m in no rush to see how that turns out. Seriously, if this is the last I ever see of these series, I’m happy.

Oh, and Amazing Spider-man was pretty good too.

cwhlv_1Children Who Chase Lost Voices: While this film was technically released last year, it received little real fanfare among the anime-watching demographic. Which is a shame, since this film highlights many of the reasons why director Makoto Shinkai is being called the next Miyazaki. Lush settings, developed characters, silent gods and terrifying monsters abound in this fable about death, loss, the afterlife, and learning to cope. Not since Spirited Away has a film managed to evoke so much emotion, while still remaining  firmly in the realm of whimsy and fantasy. This one is not to be missed.

Nintendo 3DSXL: I resisted buying a 3DS pretty much since it was released. Either the 3D hurt my eyes, or the price was too steep, or there were no games I wanted to play on it- take your pick, I just stalled on buying one for most of the past year, and most of the previous one as well. Finally, seeing a very generous discount on the newly released, gigantic 3DSXL over the holidays, I had to finally buckle down and grab this monster.

I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but this unity managed to fix every issue I had with the older model. While I still don’t use the 3D very often (or on a very high setting), its clear that with the XL, Nintendo wanted to prove it was more than just a simple gimmick. A pleasing interface, larger screens that display better resolution than the DS LL ever did, and a worthy selection of new titles have helped convert me into a believer. I still don’t think the 3DS was a necessary release by a long shot, but as an upgrade to an aging DS unit, it’s a more than worthy successor.

Revolution: Since the planet seems to be on the verge of some type of impending armageddon (and definitely NOT the Mayan one, since you’re alive to read this), it’s little surprise all the shows devoted to doomsday- from series about real life preppers to fears of nuclear annihilation to zombies feasting on flesh. Even co-creator Eric Kripke dabbled in the end times during his last two seasons on Supernatural, and JJ Abrams spend a chunk of LOST waxing philosophical about the state of humanity.

BLACKOUT -- Season: Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Anna Lise Phillips as Maggie, Graham Rogers as Danny, Tim Guiee as Ben, David Lyons as Bass Monroe, Billy Burke as Miles, Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie, Andrea Roth as Rachel, Maria Howell as Grace, Zak Orth as Aaron, Giancarlo Esposito as Lt. Neville  -- (Photo by: Nino Munoz/NBC)But in Revolution, there’s more than just a dystopian alternative future to look forward to. In a world where technology has failed, and electricity just a memory, it is the deeds of the humans living during these trying times that drive the “story” of us all. But whereas other shows rely on aliens, gods and other unreal critters to take us down and force our survivalist instincts to kick in, on Revolution we are our own jailers, as much as we are our only hope. Humanist, provocative and more than a bit surreal, this is a dytopian show about a very real possibility, and it asks more of us the viewer than it asks of its characters.

Psycho Pass: I could easily wax endlessly about the virtues of this series, but I already did a few weeks ago. Let me simply state that the more of this show I see, the more adamant I am about this being the best anime of the past 5 years. If you’re not watching Psycho-Pass, you’re doing it wrong.

NonNonBa: Sometimes fans of manga forget that there’s more to the medium than shounen fights and girls falling in love. NonNonBa is one of those times. Equal parts autobiography and exploration of the hidden world of youkai, Shigeru Mizuki manages to lend a healthy dose of both realism and humanity to his landmark gekiga book, giving  a strong emotional tie to its young hero, and highlighting the “quaint” mannerisms of pre-war Japan, family ties and the realms of mystery that only youth can conjure up. NonNonBa is a splendid example of what manga can accomplish, and does it without big battles, shirtless fighters or swooning ladies.

lobby1Otakon: I never thought I’d be writing these words, but Otakon was my favorite convention this year. Out of a personal-record-breaking 14 cons attended in 2012, Otakon has managed to stand out as the best weekend I had. Not to say that this was a landslide opinion of mine- it faced stiff competition from at least 2 other cons- but it goes to show that sometimes I’m wrong. In this case, my insistence that the biggest anime con on the East Coast could never top the smaller affairs I prefer was proven dead wrong.

Otakon did everything right. Solid guest offerings, decent merchandise variety, wide panel selections and intriguing official programming. It also seamlessly executed the weekend, with no real stumbles (at least in my humble opinion). But what really worked was a flawless melding of fandoms and people, bereft of “annoying” quirks/memes and “holier than thou” attitudes. This was my fourth Otakon, and while I thought last year was the experience I had been craving, it will be 2012 that will go down as the year it all came true.

Cards Against Humanity: Anyone who has ever played Apples to Apples knows this tale- eventually, after hours of seeing the same cards and questions roll around, one player will inevitably look at the question at hand, and drop the Helen Keller card, despite it being terribly inappropriate for the situation. Some people around the table will laugh, some will stare blankly, and some will admonish the person for “being disgusting.” And the game will roll on.

cards_against_humanityNow imagine a game of Apples to Apples where EVERY card is pretty much that situation. That, my friends, is “Cards Against Humanity.” Or, as many of my fellows refer to it, “Apples to Apples for Horrible People.” This game, an early success story courtesy of crowd-sourcing juggernaut Kickstarter, became a mainstay of game rooms and lobbies during the 2012 con season, in some cases pulling together people off the street for a few hours of completely inappropriate fun, at the expense of political correctness, tact and often sleep. The incredibly simple concept of pairing up questions like “What is there a ton of in heaven” and “White People Like_____” with answers ranging from “The 3/5 Compromise” to “Assless Chaps” crossed “boundaries” between attendees (and in one case, non-attendees who happened to know of the game) and led to some very interesting stories over the course of the weekend.

While technically released in 2011, this game will go down as one of the biggest card games of 2012, simply because of its simplicity and appeal. Anyone who hasn’t had the chance to play this game, just go to their website and download the free PDF version, print and go. You will not regret it (at least not the “acquiring part”).

supernatural_8-2Supernatural: I wanted this show to end two seasons ago. I couldn’t understand why the series had to go on after saving the world from the Apocalypse, returning Lucifer to his cage and setting things right, aside from the desire for more $$$ on the part of the producers. What followed after the standout 5th season were two hot damn messes of broken plots, throwaway characters and a whole lot of straw-grabbing (albeit with some true gems mixed in from time to time) that lacked much of the appeal and strong narratives that made the first seasons pure gold. Blame was tossed around, the showrunner was canned at the end of season 7, and fans just hoped for one last chance at glory before their favorite series went the way of the dodo.

Season 8 has completely wiped those feelings away. A return to sharp writing, experimentation and appearances by fan-favorite guests have breathed a new life into the fading series about brothers battling the forces of darkness. While not plodding back into familiar territory, or retreading past story lines, Supernatural has managed to set itself apart from contemporary shows like Grimm and Fringe, once more showcasing why this series has managed to gather such a rabid fan base and cult favorite status among a television landscape full of such shows.

If this is the last season, it will surely go out with a bang. But a part of me hopes its not.

Some honorable mentions:

Skyfall: James Bond + The Dark Knight + Skyrim = BEST BOND EVAR!!!! It’s hard to believe that Sam Mendez directed this, and not Christopher Nolan.

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Django Unchained: Too late to be included here, this is the best spaghetti western since…well…okay, this is the best spaghetti western of all time.

Pokemon White 2: This can be summed up simply- 147 hours. That’s how much time I’ve spent playing both White 2 and Black (since the White 2 release), all in the name of breeding the “perfect dragon.” Right now that title goes to a Dragon Dance Haxorus named Nidhogg, but there’s a Garchomp with Outrage breathing down its neck.

ConnectiCon: Otakon’s closest competition this year  is fast becoming the blueprint for how future fan conventions will play out. This Massively Multi-Genre event crossed boundaries while increasing its profile and experiencing growingpains with stride.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia: While the series can lack focus at times, and has a hilarious copout of an ending, episode 10 is the hands down creepiest thing I’ve seen in an anime aimed at the younger demographic.

By otakuman5000 On 30 Sep, 2011 At 11:24 PM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews, Reviews, Videos | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIt’s time for a new video review on a brand new anime. This time, I get a chance to check out and review FUNimation’s own Black Butler. An anime that involves high society living, the supernatural and occult, and everything you love about anime. This would include all the outrageous outfits and sticky situations you find most anime characters getting into all the time. However, is the anime and manga really worth your time? Is it any good or just plain EPIC FAIL. Find out in my video review of Black Butler. Check it out, leave some feedback and comments, and ultimately enjoy.

Courtesy of THE EPIC ONE.

 

By otakuman5000 On 15 May, 2011 At 07:32 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarRin and his twin brother Yukio have been raised since birth by the priest Father Fujimoto. Rin has trouble adjusting to normal society, and can’t understand why – until his innate demon powers are unleashed and he discovers that he is the son of Satan. After an encounter with his long-lost father costs him someone dear, Rin vows to become an exorcist and kill Satan himself.

© VIZ Media 2011, Kazue Kato

Supernatural manga Blue Exorcist

The description alone makes Blue Exoricist (written and drawn by Kazue Kato and released by VIZ Media) sound like a wild ride, but it starts out more muted than you’d think. Rin’s intelligent brother Yukio is lucky to have a free ride at the local high school, True Cross Academy, but since Rin couldn’t make it his initial big issue is in finding a job. The manga begins tumbling down a predictable track as soon as Rin finds out who he is: revelation of secrets, being told he must leave, and the first encounter with the enemy. And there’s the sword which Rin must never draw if he wants to remain human – I wonder what he will immediately do?

Still, the first chapter is exciting, and so it’s actually pretty disappointing to find out that Blue Exorcist is going to be another supernatural high school series. Though wandering adventures are even more overdone, keeping the main character in school just seems like a too-easy way to keep him safe, though it also gives a great place for introducing and fleshing out a full cast of characters.

Blue Exorcist Characters

Expressive characters, Rin and Father Fujimoto

The sudden discovery that his brother Yukio has known everything about him is pretty jolting. His personality takes a change as he talks to Rin snidely and sarcastically, and even intimates that things would be easier if Rin was dead. And even though he ends up acting nobler than that, it’s looking like he’s slid from one stereotype to another: quiet smart guy to cool know-it-all. Mephisto, the head of the school, is dressed up and acts in a flamboyant manner that feels a tad out of place amongst the rest of the cast, though he gets the best reactions out of Rin. The one female character is a bit disappointing in her shyness, and she brings in another predictable element with her immediate attraction to, not the main character, but his cool twin brother. But as she’s only featured in the final chapter, she still has the chance to get stronger.

The art is the best part of Blue Exorcist. Kato will often leave backgrounds empty, but it’s no bother when the focus is on the characters. While not overly detailed with tattoos or accessories, characters are expressive with bold designs, and even background characters have distinct looks. And when the artist does show a landscape her skill, and meticulousness, becomes apparent. Like in the shot of True Cross Town: the highly detailed buildings are piled and melded with each other, yet still look clean and crisp rather than messy.

Kazue Kato's view of True Cross Town

Anyone who’s read shonen manga before will be able to call almost every twist in Blue Exorcist, and as our hero starts school the manga turns out a bit more boring than you’d think a story about killing Satan would be. But as Kato takes the time to flesh out her characters they become a bit more interesting, and we can hope for more action as Rin learns his skills and hopefully goes out on a demon hunt. And the art alone is something worth looking at.

ISBN: 9781421540320 • MSRP: $9.99 • Published by VIZ Media • 200 pages