Adventures Into Darkness #10 – Review

This comic was a complete surprise to me, and not at all on my initial list of comic books to review.  I found it by complete surprise, when I was looking for creative commons images to use on my initial blog post introducing the comic book review series I was about to write.

Adventures Into Darkness #10
Adventures Into Darkness #10

Adventures Into Darkness #10 was originally published in June 1953, and rather than being one complete story, is an anthology book featuring about 9 different stories in the horror-suspense genre.

The cover story, The Man Who Could Not Die, is the longest of the bunch and is front and centre in the book as the first story.  The cover actually depicts a different story – The Man Who Could Not Die is a story about a 5000-year-old man hiring a hitman to kill himself – because he is unable to die due to a pact made with Death.

I got a really good kick out of this book.  The writing is clever, if not a bit predictable (it hits on a lot of tropes that have been done to death – excuse the pun – at this point, but would have been fresh in 1953).

Most of the stories in the book are short, the shortest lasting one page at the end of the book.  Definitely worth checking out for a quick read; I think I may have a look at the rest of the stories in this particular collection!

Batman – A Word to the Wise – Review

Batman – “A Word to the Wise” – Review

Batman - A Word to the Wise
Batman – A Word to the Wise

Branded content has been around for a long time.  It’s usually pretty good for marketing.  You provide content that people will enjoy and attach your name to it.  Branded podcasts are starting to pop up now.

But never before have I seen a branded comic book, apart from Batman “A Word to the Wise”.  Here’s an excerpt from the fine print on the first page:

This comic book has been sponsored by Zellers Inc. to support and promote the cause for literacy in Canada.

No kidding on the fine print here – I actually used a magnifying glass to read it.

The Story

The comic begins in Montreal, Quebec, where some kids are trying to get a good view of fireworks.  Batman swoops in to save the day when one such kid ignores warning signs on a rickety fire escape, suggesting that a little bit of reading goes a long way!

We turn to Toronto, where Joey is trying to convince Joanie to ditch the boring library and go to the Canadian National Exhibition – which apparently won’t wait forever, you know.

Batman drives in the middle of the road.
Batman drives in the middle of the road.

Meanwhile, Batman, driving in the middle of the road between Montreal and Toronto, comments on how nice the drive is, and that it’s no wonder The Joker would make his way down to Toronto.  I guess there’s logic there?  The Joker likes farmhouses and country side?  Moving on.

Apparently The Joker is after a rare 1867 edition of “The Geography of Canada”, and was making his way across the country, starting in Newfoundland.  He’s made his way to Toronto, and that’s where Batman is headed (thanks to insight from his Bat-Computer).  Thanks to the wonders of 90’s technology, Batman is able to immediately fax a copy of his reports to the RCMP!

Batman tracks down Joker to a library, but he escapes.  But the book The Joker is after is with Joanie – who is now in danger!  Batman tracks down Joanie, but The Joker follows Batman and traps them all in the CNE.

The Joker gets his hand on the rare geography book, and tears it in half – disappointed that “it” isn’t in the book.  Apparently, there’s something inside this rare geography book that he’s looking for.  What could it be?

Zellers!
Zellers!

Batman, using Joanie and Joey’s help (after all, they know more about Canada than Batman does!), head west after the Joker to Alberta, and make stop “at the local Zellers store just outside Edmonton.”  They proceed to note that it’s “terrific that there’s always a Zellers nearby when you need one”.

Batman is too late, as the Joker found the parchment in the binding of the geography book he was looking for.  It looks like Joker’s headed to the Calgary Stampede (or perhaps, just a rodeo?) to make some sort of announcement to the world.

Joker claims that the parchment he found was a land grant, giving him full legal claim to all of North America west of Cape Spear.  He demands to be proclaimed rightful ruler of the entire continent within 24 hours or have the entire populace evicted.

Batman hog-ties The Joker in record time, and saves the day.  The RCMP arrive to deal with everything else Batman leaves behind, leaving the issue of this strange land grant!

Apparently the option on the deed had to be exercised within 125 years of the date of signing, but this very day happens to be 125 years and ONE day after the signing!  So Joker’s claim is void.  His henchmen tell him he should have read the fine print, and Joey realizes that reading DOES have its uses after all!

Fantastic Lines

This book is as cheesy as it gets, and definitely follows the mold of Adam West’s Batman with lines like:

“You heard the lady!  This is a library – and your card’s just been cancelled!”

There are some other gems, like:

“Look, can we just shelve this reading stuff for the time being?”

The writing is actually not that bad, for a commercial tie-in.  I think the best moment in the book is when Batman hog ties The Joker, and yells out, “Clear!” – clearly knowing exactly what to do in a rodeo.  You see, children, Batman is well-read.  See how useful reading is?

My takeaway

Throughout the entire book, there are double-sided, single page ads with coupons advertising various products sold only at Zellers.  As an adult, it’s fairly obvious that this comic book was designed completely to advertise, but if you were a kid reading it, it would just be a fun Batman story.

And for a piece of branded content, this was actually quite good.  The Joker seems to be very much in character (he has some cheesy tricks up his sleeve – literally – and dresses up like a cowboy).  The plot, while simple, doesn’t seem to have any holes in it.  I think that’s BECAUSE it’s so simple.

Anyway, if you ever come across this book – it’s worth picking up for some of the strange appearances in it; I mean, seeing a big Zellers store front show up on one of the pages is something you don’t normally see (and naturally, will never see again).

2.5 out of 5!

Comic Book Review Series

Comic books, man.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is create an online comic, or write a comic book.  The only problem is that I can’t draw worth a hill of beans.  And I’m not a super avid reader of comics, but there are a select few that I’ve found that I enjoy.

These aren't the comic books I'm talking about, but they look cool!
These aren’t the comic books I’m talking about, but they look cool!

So I thought I would spend the month of August reading and reviewing comic books – both physical and online.  I have a bit of a backlog building on my shelf that I want to power through.  Posts are going to come out at least weekly, but I will likely have some bonus posts to throw up because I think I have more comics to talk about than there are weeks in the month.

This one is also pretty cool.  Now I wish I could add it to my list.
This one is also pretty cool. Now I wish I could add it to my list.

Here’s a preview of some of the comics I’m going to review, in no particular order:
– Atomic Robo Volume 1
– Universe Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– The Private Eye Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Barrier (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Batman “A Word to the Wise” (Strange Zellers tie-in from 1992)
– Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
– Poe Dameron: Black Squadron (Vol 1, issues 1-6)
– Suicide Squad “Blood & Snow” Part Two (near as I can tell, issue 12 from April 1988)

That list in itself grew as I was typing up this entry as I find more things to read.  This is not ideal but also great at the same time.  Anyway, I have a lot of reading to do (and this is on top of trying to finish a bunch of novels) so I’d better get cracking!

Long Journey

I was going to post something about a Batman comic I found in my collection the other day (it’s pretty great, ironically).  But I haven’t gotten to writing that up yet.

Instead I’ve been thinking about my weight loss progress a lot lately.  I haven’t really made any progress, at least not on the scale.  I haven’t taken any measurements lately, but I will be doing that at the end of the month.  I’ve been hovering around the same weight for the last month or so, again according to the scale.

The only thing is that I have no other data to back up what I’m doing.  I still log my weight every day in MyFitnessPal, even when I don’t weight myself.  I think I decided to do this because I’ve got a Google Spreadsheet updating automatically every day with my weight, so not having an entry every day creates gaps.  It’s all about the data!

But I haven’t been logging any food in MFP.  As far as I can see, the last date I entered my food for a full day was Wednesday June 28th.  Woops.  I go through this kind of cycle every now and then – I enter my food rigorously for a short period, and then I get tired of doing it.  Either because I’m not seeing any results, or else it’s too difficult to be accurate with my entries.

It’s fine to take a break – weight loss is a hard, long journey.  At some point I feel like you need to give yourself a break.  Don’t go hog wild and reverse your progress – just take it easy with the careful logging of everything.  I feel like my eating habits are ingrained enough that I’m able to keep my calories in mostly maintenance mode, and I know that I’ve been active enough to offset anything extra.

Is that something normal people do though?  Maybe I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe that’s why I’m having such a tough time since my successes 3-4 years ago.

Well, for the umpteenth time I’m going to start everything over August 1st.  And I mean everything.  Today, I’m going to stop my automatic weight loss logging (which if you’re curious, is being done via a combination of IFTTT / FitBit / Google Drive).  I’m going to let my 100-day MFP streak die, and only let it continue if I truly make an entry.

On July 31st, I’m going to get a new starting weight and measurements.  Beyond that I haven’t set any goals.  That’s something I need to think about.

Story Idea Up For Grabs

I got a story idea a few weeks ago, but I haven’t really bothered to put pen to paper to develop it at all.  So it’s now up for grabs!

Take them.
Take them.

I was listening to Almost Educational Episode 131 about time travel.  At some point while I was listening, the idea for a piece of flash fiction popped into my head.  Unfortunately, as is usually the case with my ideas, if I don’t act on it fast, the motivation to do it fades pretty quickly.

The main premise is this: The phenomenon known as “frequency illusion” (also known as the “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon”) is actually a ripple effect caused by some kind of change to the timeline in the past.

That’s about as far as I got with the idea, so I’d love to see what someone can come up with here.  If it’s already been done, point me in the right direction!

Favourite 80’s Mythical Monster Movies

I watched 1984’s Splash (starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy) last weekend, finally crossing that comedy off my list.  It got me thinking about my favourite movies growing up, and a lot of them had the same theme: mythical monsters.

I’m not sure if there’s actually a genre for these movies, but this fits best as far as I can tell.  If you weren’t familiar with Splash before, it’s about a man searching for love who finds it in the form of a mermaid, temporarily granted legs for a short pe

riod.

 

We had a lot of movies taped off TV growing up, and one of the tapes that got repeat views was a little-known movie called Bigfoot.  It was one of ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” presentations, but other than that, until looking it up on IMDB, I knew nothing about it.  I assumed it was either made for TV or had a small theatrical release – apparently it was part of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”.

Bigfoot (1987)
Bigfoot (1987)

This movie had some pretty great production value for a made-for-TV movie, if you ask me.  Sure, Harry and the Hendersons is probably the most recognized Sasquatch film out there from the 80’s, but Bigfoot is my favourite.  It’s got comedy moments and even a little bit of suspense.  If you’re young enough, it can even be scary at times.

Some other mythical monster movies I remember watching – Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (which I should re-visit, one day).  Actually, that’s about all I remember.  What are some other good ones from the 80s?

Book Reviews

It’s been a while since I finished reading something, and this month I managed to finish two things.  One was a full length book, the other was a piece of short fiction.  Here are my reviews.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

I received this book as a gift at Christmas this past year, and is a story I’ve had my eye on for quite a while.  What I didn’t know about it: it was originally written in Swedish, translated to English (and presumably many other languages since).  It’s a simple story, and starts exactly as the title suggests: A 100-year-old man climbs out of his window and disappeared, launching a man-hunt for him across Sweden.

It earns many comparisons to Forest Gump, mainly because the story of his past is told in parallel with the present-day story.  In his past, he interacts with many different historical figures and winds up inadvertently shaping historic events simply by dumb luck.

I’m normally not a fan of descriptions that compare the book to another work of fiction, simply because it saddles a lot of preconceptions onto the new work.  I tried not to think about the Forest Gump comparisons but after finishing the novel, felt that it was a pretty apt description.

The story is pretty funny overall, and the pacing was generally quite good.  At some points I thought that this wasn’t the case; some of the telling of his life in the past felt slow and left me wanting to get back to what the main character was up to in the present day.

I give it an A-, definitely worth a read.

Dead Trees Give No Shelter

Dead Trees Give No Shelter
Dead Trees Give No Shelter

This is a shorter piece of fiction, about 40 pages.  Wil Wheaton (yes, THAT Wil Wheaton) wrote it with an intended release for Halloween, as a break between a longer novel that he’s working on.

It’s a supernatural / horror story, which coincidentally also moves between the past and present day (and a quick jaunt into the year 2031).  I didn’t intend to pick two stories to review that had a similar story mechanic, it’s something I just realized.

Here’s what I wrote about it on Goodreads:

A quick but very enjoyable read. Wil Wheaton created a moody atmosphere and did a really good job of “hiding the monster” until it needed to come out of hiding. The story has a certain symmetry to it as well. At one point when I was reading it, I was listening to the E.T. soundtrack, which perfectly fit the tone that I think Wheaton was aiming for. There were some instances where the dialog didn’t work for me, but it wasn’t enough to make me give up reading in disgust. Solid read – pick it up after watching Stranger Things (or watch Stranger Things after reading this).

I really liked it.  Around the time that I finished reading this I also binged through the rest of Stranger Things, which was great.  Similar atmospheres, which I think is exactly what Wheaton was going for.

Since you probably won’t need help finding The 100 Year Old Man… on book shelves, I’ll just give you a link to Dead Trees Give No Shelter.  You can pick it up in multiple forms – I personally bought the eBook.  You can also listen to the Audiobook, which was narrated by Wil himself.

What’s next?  I’m going to finally read Timothy Zahn’s Survivor’s Quest + Outbound Flight; I’ve also got a World War II book I picked up from a bargain table that looks interesting.  I definitely have no shortage of things to read on my bookshelf.

Podcast Update for June

Here’s your podcast update for June!  There’s actually a lot going on for what is usually considered an “off-season” for entertainment.  If you want, you can download my subscription list at http://www.noformatblog.ca/podcasts_opml.xml

Dropped Podcasts

I don’t recall dropping any subscriptions.  Good news!

Returning Shows

This list is somewhat long!  That’s really cool.

  • The Pitch is back!  Three new episodes came out, and while I was disappointed with the unannounced break I’m pretty happy there are new shows to evaluate.  Season 3 started June 14th and is now part of Gimlet.
  • Grant Lawrence is back on CBC Radio 3!  Which is now “Canada Sounds”, which I need to listen more for a proper evaluation.  I guess they got tired of doing the usual show of just playing cool music with the occasional feature.  Now it sounds like something tied even more strongly into Canada.  Episodes are short, it seems!
  • Radio Free Burrito – Wil Wheaton is trying to keep to a weekly schedule.  So far so good.  I’ve always liked this show, and it’s pretty much an audio version of his blog.  A show I usually listen to first as soon as it comes out.
  • Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder – season 2 seems to be looking at the Daniel Morgan murder from a slightly different perspective, assuming that the listener is familiar with the story.  Leans heavily on the host’s new book.

Recommended Listening

  • Overthinking It Podcast episode 464: E.T.: I Learned it from You, Alien Dad! 
    • Why this episode?  Because for a long time I’ve been meaning to re-watch E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.  I keep seeing it on Netflix and I don’t think I’ve watched it in 20+ years.  This episode is a deep dive on what’s going on with the movie E.T. (as opposed to covering the apparently terrible Alien Covenant), and was really fun to listen to.  They touched on so many aspects that I’d never noticed before so I had to watch it.
    • Pair this listening with a viewing of E.T.  You won’t regret it!

New Subscriptions

Just one – Back to the Futurama.  For the longest time, Futurama Pedia was the only Futurama podcast around but that’s changed!  Back to the Futurama is going through all of the Futurama episodes in order, from what I can tell.  I haven’t listened through everything, and still need to finish listening to their Space Pilot 3000 episode.  But it’s pretty good!

Got any podcasts you’d like to recommend?

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Review

I recently had to send my regular phone in for repair (I got it back today!  Quick service, Rogers!), and received a Sony Xperia M4 Aqua as a loaner unit so I could still function in the real world.  Here’s a review of the device and my short time with it.

The Screen

My “daily driver”, as the tech junkie parlance goes, is a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which sports a 5.5″ screen.  It’s capable of displaying what Samsung calls WQHD or something.  Either way, it’s a really good screen, so this is the first thing I noticed on the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.

The Xperia’s screen is 5.0″, so not significantly smaller than what I’m used to.  The resolution is only 720×1280, a rather large dropdown from Samsung.  But everything on the Xperia is bright and generally looks good.  This probably sounds strange, but everything looks “flat” but that works for the device build (which I’ll get to).

The adaptive brightness seems to work really well, and really quickly.  I was outside BBQing Monday night, in bright sunlight; at first it was hard to read the screen but within seconds the brightness dialed up and I was able to read it no problem.  Admittedly it’s probably a tad slower than most high-end devices but it’s good enough for me.

Software

I was happily surprised to see that the device launched with Android 6.0.1.  I was expecting to see Android L, as I knew pretty much nothing about the Xperia line.  For a 2 year old device, that kind of OS software support is pretty good.

It looks like Sony has kept a mostly stock Android feel to the device, unlike Samsung which layers on its TouchWiz experience that makes their version of Android look very different from stock.  The only reason I recognize the stock look of 6.0.1 is because I briefly used Cyanogen on my old Galaxy SIII a couple of years ago, and it looks pretty much like what I see on the Xperia M4 Aqua.

I quickly installed Nova Launcher on top of it though, so my user experience was almost identical to what I’m used to on my S7.  I wasn’t really a fan of Sony’s default interface, and they install a lot of bloatware.  Luckily I was able to ignore or disable most of it to be able to dive into actually using my device.

Performance

I noticed some sluggishness with the phone – but that’s going to happen when the chipset used is significantly inferior to what I’m used to.  I don’t understand the full differences but suffice it to say, it is noticeable.  However, there were only a handful of times when I felt annoyed by the lag on the device, so overall I’d say it’s acceptable.

Plus, I turned on Developer Options and turned off all of the animations – and that made a huge difference.  Cosmetic perhaps, but it worked for me.

It was a bit slow to open the camera on demand, so quick pics are probably not going to happen easily.  But I didn’t get many photo ops while testing the device, so a very minor knock against the unit.

Speaking of which…

Camera

I own a Sony DSC-H300, so I was looking forward to some “camera synergy” with the Xperia M4 Aqua.  I wasn’t able to dig too deep with the settings but most of the familiar camera modes were there, including a pretty robust “Pro” mode, which I was happy was there.  I took a few shots – I think the quality is good, but not great.  Much better than the other reviews I read of the phone.

They definitely look better on a proper display than how they showed at the time on the device.

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

Phone Build

Here’s where I felt the phone suffered.  It felt very cheap, like it was just a piece of plastic and not a phone.  It’s very light.  On the other hand, the device is apparently fully waterproof and features a dedicated camera button so you could take pictures under water if you wanted to!  That’s pretty neat.

I count this next app as a hardware “tick” because it requires physical components to work.  The Xperia has a built-in FM radio!  Yeah, not a big deal when you can stream things all the time…but sometimes I just want good old FM radio.  I used to have a Nokia phone that had a built-in FM tuner, and it was great.

Overall Impressions

You can probably tell from the body of the review that I enjoyed using this phone.  I was expecting something lacklustre, but was (marginally) blown away by the quality under the hood, even though it looks and feels like a cheap phone.

I would most definitely recommend this phone for someone who needed a cheap replacement, but it’s definitely not going to compare to a flagship device.  I might also consider finding a cheap unlocked version of my own to use as a backup / media device.  I was that impressed with it.

Flash Fiction Prompt

I was listening to Episode 35 of Anthology yesterday which covered the topic of genies.  It got me thinking a little bit about something to write, but as usual I was on a walk while I was listening to this is all based on memory!

Anyway, I thought I’d provide everyone with a Flash Fiction Prompt.  If you’re not familiar with the term “flash fiction”, you may want to familiarize yourself with the Wikipedia entry.  The short version (or “flash” version, if you will) is that Flash Fiction is really short, usually no more than 1000 words.  The shortest most-known story is of course The Six Word Story.

Flash Fiction Prompt

All I remembered from my walk was this prompt:

A genie grants you three wishes.

And that’s it.  Run with it!