Our Own Personal Gateways

While studying lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of videos discussing the old Archie and Fleetway Sonic the Hedgehog comics. It’s fun to learn about these things and even the idea that Mark Millar, author of Kick Ass and The Kingsman, got his start writing the UK Sonic the Comic. But this got me thinking about a comic I loved as a little kid, and arguably got me to consistently pick up comics.

My mother taught us to read at a very young age, so she frequently encouraged us to read books. My sister is much older, so she was a lot more advanced, but we both borrow books from the library weekly and mum would often quiz us on what we were reading. Along the way, I’d read a handful of comic issues (mostly superhero or Asterix), but they were never mine. They were just issues I’d read in a doctor’s office, at school or owned by a friend of my sisters. But I did also watch a lot of cartoons when it was my turn to watch tv. A show I absolutely loved as a little kid, and honestly still have a soft spot for as an adult, is the Digimon franchise. I tried watching as many episodes as I could, though I did miss some either due to just missing the time slot, or others watching tv. But when I was 8, I spotted what I thought was a magazine on the store shelf using a picture of Digmon on the cover. I asked my mother if I could take a look, and she got it off the rack for me. It wasn’t just a magazine; it was an actual comic book of my favourite show!

My mother saw my face light up and bought the issue for me. Every few months, we found another issue on the shelf and she’d pick that up for me too. My sister got a music magazine, I got a comic. What I loved about those issues then, was that it was my favourite show, but I could experience it any time I wanted. I didn’t need the tv to be free, or for the show to actually be airing. I could experience the adventure in my own time. Later on in the comics run, they diverted from the shows plot and started telling their own story. I had another version of that show!

It’s crazy to me that as an adult, I’ve made a small name for myself talking about comics. That I’m studying them academically in order to get my doctorate. Sometimes, it’s funny to think back to that little 8 year old kid, stood in the magazine section of our local supermarket, having absolutely no idea of what’s ahead. I just wanted to experience a world I loved.

Three Jokers: Book One (2020)

The idea of Three Jokers was teased way back in the 2016s The Darkseid War, when Batman gains access to the Mobius Chair and asks it for Joker’s true name. This happens prior to the Rebirth initiative of 2016 and was left as a lingering thread until the later half of 2020. This long delay between set up and the beginning of the pay off has built some great expectations. However, it also means that people who were looking forward to the story might now find themselves ambivalent about it all.

The premise of the book is exploring how there could possibly be Three Jokers running around the DC Universe, however, this first book focuses heavily on how the Joker has affected Batman, Batgirl and Red Hood. While this is a compelling situation, and certainly a conversation worth having, the full set up of there being Three Jokers seems to have been skipped over. That pacing and structure has been sacrificed to get this first event down to a set number of pages. This wouldn’t be as bothersome, if the book hadn’t shoe horned in a number of intertextual references. Call backs work well in certain places, such as during the conversation between Joker and Jason Todd, but others, such as the scar list, and, yet again, a recounting of Bruce’s origin, feel arbitrary.

Hopefully, this is something that will clear up as the story continues. Perhaps these minor notes will add up to important plot details later, but currently, the book feels like a first draft.

The frustration of Final Fantasy 8

I’ve been working hard trying to get my doctoral initial assessment report finished and to the highest standard I can. However, it means that I’ve needed to use my spare, ‘relaxation’ time doing things that have nothing to do with my actual work. I’ve been spending that time exploring games in the Final Fantasy franchise I have previously overlooked. This included actually playing Final Fantasy 8.

Final Fantasy 7 will forever remain a childhood favourite, as well as something I frequently revisit now. Final Fantasy 9 is one I found a deep connection with, and appreciate more while experiencing much older Final Fantasy games. 8 was always an outlier for me. I’d tried it a few times when I was younger, but never got particularly far. Barley making it to being an actual SEED member, about an hour in if you’ve never played the game. But given that the game is on my Switch and I have an original copy, I should actually play the game.

I played the game twice in a few weeks just to complete the game once. My main problem was that I thought I could just go in and play the game like any other Final Fantasy game. The answer to that is no thanks to what Final Fantasy 8 calls, the Junction system. Trying to get to grips with it just led me to wishing I had something like Final Fantasy 7’s Materia system, or even a simple job system like in Final Fantasy 4 or 12: The Zodiac Age. To emphasis just how little I understood both the Junction system and GFs, that original save file is currently stuck at the final battle with just the Shiva, Ifrit, Quezacotl and Cerberus. I was getting pretty annoyed trying to get through the castle and continuously getting frustrated by dying repeatedly. I’d tried to avoid using guides on the first playthrough because I want it to be my first experience with the game, but at this point. I loaded a guide. Suddenly I felt like the biggest idiot.

I got to work trying to understand the Junction system, how to draw magic, the point of the cards I’d been picking up, and exactly HOW you gain other summons, known as GFs in Final Fantasy 8. I took what I’d learnt from this ‘research’, started a new game and tried once again to finish this damn thing. This save file did make it to the games ending. Was it a perfect playthrough? No, definitely not. I didn’t get all the GFs, just most of them, I didn’t get all the weapons, but I did actually see the games ending.

The first playthrough was so overshadowed by frustration, that I started seeing the games actual story as a chore. When I should have been paying attention to the dialogue, I was concentrating on “just what am I doing wrong?”. However, once I did come to terms with the systems in place, I was able to enjoy what I was actually playing. Squall Lionhart, the protagonist, was somewhat annoying at times, but it comes from his defining character aspects. That he’s closed himself off emotionally due to the loss of his ‘sister’ when they were young. Rinoa originally frustrated me, but I think the second playthrough did show the reasons why. Her sudden turn into being madly in love with Squall made more sense when considering what happened immediately before this change.

Primarily, Final Fantasy 8 is a love story surrounding plot elements relating to time travel, sorceresses and civil unrest. While the story plays out, you are treated to flashbacks to 18 years prior. The two stories both mirror and enhance one another, implying many connections between the two sets of protagonists and making their eventual meeting all the more impactful. The character of Laguna was compelling enough to be given his own spin off to the franchise, though his development is largely confined to flashback sequences and comments from other characters.

Two stand out scenes are Irving’s inability to fire a shot due to pressure and a lack of confidence, despite boasting his bravado since joining the team, and the heavily romantic scene between Squall and Rinoa on the Ragnarok. A scene that shows Squall actually letting his guard down and admitting just how much he cares for her. Jumping to his feet only to hold her close when she’s almost in tears.

The game is worth playing. But it’s one that NEEDS complete attention to every detail early on or be prepared to look through a guide. It is heavily story driven but works very well throughout.

Also, after actually playing through the game, I completely believe the ‘Squall is dead’ theory. Don’t care what the director says, I 100% think it’s true.

Dragon Quest Builders 1 & 2 – A Personal Introduction to the Dragon Quest Franchise

While researching into both the seven plot categories, and looking further into JRPGs, I knew that at some point, I’d need to take a look at the Dragon Quest franchise. I’ve always been more of a Final Fantasy fan when it comes to JRPGs, and later, I developed a fondness for Shin Megami Tensei, but Dragon Quest was always ‘that other’ JRPG. I knew Akira Toriyama was the character designer, and I knew it was made by Enix, but beyond that, nothing.

My first experience with Dragon Quest was when the definitive edition of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age released on the Switch. I picked it up because it was the latest release, but I ended up only playing it for about an hour. I wasn’t really grabbed by it, and figured I’d just come back to it at a later date. I started watching the contend of Wood Hawker (BeatemUps) on YouTube, and a series he spoke very fondly of was Dragon Quest Builders. Lockdown had just started so I thought “What the hell, I’ll pick up a copy of the first one and see how it is”.

The first game took a little while to hook me in, but I found myself logging 30 hours in the space of 2 weeks. The mythology they were eluding to was interesting, I thought the monsters were adorable, and I genuinely cared about building up the town of Cantlin and travelling to other islands. As the world unfolded, I found myself wanting to learn more about the franchise. I discovered the mythology around Erdrick, the innovations Dragon Quest III made for RPG games, and the long legacy the games continue to have within gaming history.

I’m eager to dive further into the franchise, having now carried on with Dragon Quest XI and downloaded Dragon Quest 1, 2 and 3, as well as include it within my lectures. Currently, Dragon Quest XI is a part of the ‘Quest’ subcategory of plot structures in my Structuralism lecture.

Dragon Quest Builders hooked me in pretty well, and footage from the sequel seemed to take what I already enjoyed and improve upon them. Mechanics wise, Dragon Quest Builders 2 seems somewhat easier, especially when it comes to gaining materials. Such as wood just from chopping trees, instead of getting broken tree branches from trees and then crafting that into wood. While this change did make me feel that the game would just be easier, with none of the crafting fun, but instead, I’m greeted with new things to create, and an interesting set of characters to drive the plot along. The relationship between the Hero and Malroth is certainly interesting, as it’s clear that Malroth is not what he seems, though his memory loss gives you hope that he might just come through as a hero.

While the Builders games are spin-offs, it’s still a great entry way into the franchise. One that has inspired a thorough deep dive and a yearning to discover everything the franchise has to offer.

I might be addicted to Steins Gate 0….

I’ve written before that I really enjoy my Switch and I frequently use it as a short break from work or just to destress. Monday will mark the start of another marathon marking session, so I decided to spend Friday through Sunday just chilling out. I’ve read a few comics and carried on some of my progress in games. And then I discovered that Steins Gate 0 was available on the Nintendo E-Shop.

It’s been on my Switch for about 20 hours, and I’ve already logged 8 hours. I know, that’s too early to say ‘I think I’m addicted’, but for me, that’s a big deal.

I Remember experiencing the original Steins Gate anime as it was coming out, and then researching into the visual novel as it didn’t really have much of a UK release. So, I’ve had experience with the series, which is something I heavily recommend if you are even considering downloading Steins Gate 0. Steins Gate 0 acts as a direct sequel to Steins Gate, picking up where Okabe has failed to save Karise and has given up on traveling back in time, it’s now several months later and Okabe has tried his best to distance himself from who he was before. Now suffering from PTSD and relying on Anxiety medication, but still finding things incredibly difficult.

Before talking more about the plot of 0, it’s probably best to explain the basic plot of Steins Gate. As quickly as possible, World War III begins sometime between 2010 and 2020 because of an arms race to build a time machine, primarily started by Russia and America. Said Time Machine plans begin to form because of Karise’s research in 2008/2009, the engineering and computer programming skills of Daru, and the frantic inventions and encouragement of main character Okabe. The group experiments with their findings through the first half of Steins Gate (set in 2009) with Okabe travelling to different ‘world lines’ based on things they change in the past. Primarily these changes are made through text messages. However, at the half way point, it’s revealed that Suzuha, a secondary character, is actually a time traveller and Daru’s future daughter. That she’s come back in time to ensure that World War III never happens. Needing Okabe to find the correct World Line since he’s one of the only people that remembers when time lines shift. Adding to this, it turns out that the infamous John Titor posts of the late 90s/early 2000s were in fact created by Suzuha during her travels. The real world stories of John Titor heavily influenced the plot and development of Steins Gate.

The sequel, now picking up many months after a failed attempt, has Okabe now meeting Karise’s former research fellows from the United States. Meeting them is entirely coincidental at first, as he is attending a conference that they happen to be presenting at. He becomes more than a little emotional when he discovers that they are continuing Karise’s research. They then reveal part of her research known as Amadeus. An AI assistant based on backed up memories of Maho. The co-worker of Karise’s that Okabe meets prior to the conference. The AI Assistant is so life like and responsive that it’s difficult to tell the difference. As Okabe becomes friends with the researchers, they let him in on the other version of Amadeus. One created using Karise’s memories. Granted, the last back up was made before Karise came to Japan and had over met Okabe.

Okabe now has access to talk to this recreation of Karise, even though it’s extremely painful to him. Suzuha also reveals that there was in fact a second person to come back in time with her, a little girl that she lost track of in 1999. And now, at the point I have reached, the time line has suddenly changed without any of them having done anything. The current theory is that Russia started their time travel experiments that night, and seemed to have gone back to stop the Soviet Union to ever dissolve. Okabe finds himself in the middle of a war zone, Tokyo is a smoking crater, and it seems like the military is escorting him, but it’s unknown weather it’s to protect him, or arrest him.

What’s really drawing me in is the fantastic translation. The return to some of these amazing characters, and the mysteries that I’m dying to see unravel. I’m really curious to see how some of the choices I have made during text conversations have affected things so far. I want to know what happens to these characters. Will Okabe figure out what’s going on and get back in the time machine? Will they find the little girl from the future? Will Daru actually ask out Yuki so Suzuha has a chance of being born?!

The Joys of the Nintendo Switch from a Frequently Frustrated Student/Researcher

I am extremely proud to be a researcher. It is a big part of my identity. It’s something I enjoy taking part in, exchanging ideas and learning more about things I care about, especially in comics and popular culture. Obviously, looking at popular culture does include gaming, and given that it’s something I also teach, I do need to stay somewhat on top of things.  But when it comes to everyday work, I’m not the biggest gamer.

I don’t particular care about the argument between who’s better, PS4 or Xbox One. As long as they play games I’m interested in, I don’t really have a preference. Although I will state that the controller for the Xbox One is very comfortable. I’m more interested in the game rather than the hardware. That mindset changes however, when it comes to the Nintendo Switch. I have home consoles dating back to my mother giving me the small redesign of the PlayStation One during Christmas as a kid. I got a lot of use out of my GameCube, played the hell out of my Xbox 360, and enjoyed many hours, many hours from my old PlayStation One. I’ve kept all of my consoles and enjoy being able to dust them off to play an old favourite or to record footage to show students. But they can be somewhat cumbersome just to get out to play for an hour or two. I do not have the space to keep everything plugged in, and as a film fan, the Blu-Ray player takes priority.

With the Switch however, its core selling point is that it is both a portable and an at home console. I may not play that many home console games too often, but I am a sucker for portable gaming. My 3DSXL will usually be found in my backpack, usually loaded with a copy of Pokémon or Shin Megami Tensei. Portable games are something I do sink time in, largely dur to either traveling, having to wait for files to load, students to show up, or just when anxiety gets the better and I need to calm my mind down.  I was perfectly happy sticking to my 3DS as my go to console for a long, long time. And then games really started slowing down. The 3DS hit a wall with what it could do, and games were either becoming expensive due to coming out at the end of the console’s life span, or just not being in production anymore. I started teaching more classes to do with gaming, and I knew that meant that I would NEED to update my hardware somehow. Given my passion for Superheroes, I was very much tempted by the PS4 just to play Spider-Man. But I gave it some thought, considered what games were on the market, my own habits in regards to actually playing games, and just my life in general. I settled on the Nintendo Switch, as is evident in the title. I figured the ability to play it portably would be used greatly, I play a lot of Pokemon, so what the new games come out, I’d be able to play it, and I just liked the design of the console a lot.

Just over a year later, and I’ve used my Switch both more than I thought I would, and in ways I hadn’t thought of. The Switch itself has made it’s way into my lectures, thanks to a lot of more retro games being added to the system. Being able to not only show off the games but allow students to take the controller and give them a try. My level 5 students and I even had a class wide Smash Brothers Ultimate tournament going before lockdown started. Usually, this would encompass the last 15 minutes of the lecture if we’d gone through everything planned for the session. Frankly, they are far better at the game than I am, but I think they enjoyed showing me the ropes for it.

In personal life, the Switch console has very much become my research companion. Spending the vast majority of my time researching, writing and reading, it’s hard to stay motivated. It’s also very easy to find yourself getting deeply frustrated when things don’t make sense. As someone who has GAD, and finds themselves having more and problems the longer I’m in lockdown (I’m on week 18 as of writing), just having something to change my focus on is a real joy. Pre-lockdown, I took my Switch to my first conference. I was in a foreign country, with people I largely didn’t know, the co-worker I travelled with, and one or two people I’d spoken to online where the only contacts I had. I couldn’t sleep most nights, and even the flight there and back had me on edge. But I had my Switch in my bag. If I needed a distraction from the flight, I had my Switch out. Couldn’t sleep, played something for a while until I was tired. It’s amazing how comforting the system became. Especially since my bag had very limited space, and I didn’t have room for more than one book.

During lockdown, I’ve had the console sat on the desk while I work. While sometimes it is just procrastinating for the sake of procrastinating, other times it’s been very much needed. When your doing research, especially when it comes to having to read things that haven’t been translated well, things can get extremely frustrating. Things don’t make sense after a while and your brain just needs to rest. On the other side of things, you might just be struggling to read in general, and when you have deadlines pushing against you, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Having the Switch nearby can be very comforting as I can just pick it up, play for a few minutes and feel better enough to go back to work.

Games that have really been helpful are both surprising and not surprising at all to me. Pokémon Sword and Shield doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s Pokémon, it’s the latest game in the series, I love collecting Pokémon to fill up the Pokedex, it’s just fun to me. The addition of things like Max Raids has been very entertaining as I get to partake in battles with others. I can even get some pretty decent additions to my team, or just get some rare items. Being in England, I can really appreciate some of the additions that just remind me of home. Though some decisions are very questionable at times. The Isle of Armour DLC came out last week, and I have been enjoying it so far. I’ve been playing through it slowly, I’ve just been exploring the island. I do need to get back to the story at some point. I just like experiencing it at my own pace.

Animal Crossing I’ve not been putting that much time into, especially when compared to others. It was actually Comic Drake that got me curious about even trying it. Given time zones, the game came out here in England a few hours earlier than it did in England. So, I logged on to his alternate account and downloaded it here in England, so it would become available on his Switch at midnight UK time. Something that very much made me laugh. I decided to download the game myself a few days later, just to find out why someone would want to play this game so badly, that he’d call up someone in another country just to click buy for him. I booted it up, played for an hour or two and didn’t really see the appeal. I thought it was just sort of run of the mill. I checked back in every now and then, but it’s only been in the past few days that I’ve actually been getting the most of it. I saw an image online of someone who had a Godzilla statue on their island. That got me curious enough to go back in and take a look at the game. I now have a fully built museum, and the shop should be open tomorrow. I’m not putting too much time in, just some time while my laptop and files load up in the morning. Cup of tea to my side, and just roaming around an island while figuring out what needs doing today. I’m seeing more worth in it now, as opposed to my original impressions.

Final Fantasy VII and IX both have Switch ports and it’s become my absolute favourite way to play them. They are big childhood favourites to me, and getting to play these now as an adult, being able to take the game with me meant that I spent much longer per session. Specifically, when playing through more ‘personal’ portions. Such as Cloud reliving his past and coming to terms with it, or ZIdaine discovering who he really is. I had a tv sat across from the desk, but instead, I sat on my bed and just played through those sections in handheld mode, because that’s just what felt right for the experience.

Fire Emblem Three Houses I’ve barely put time into, but it’s something I keep finding myself wanting to go back to. I think being a teacher in real life, especially to university students, the game is far less escapism than it should be. I do really enjoy the actual battle mechanics. It reminds me a fair bit of Pokémon Conquest on the DS, which I suspect was the point.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, as well as being a really long title, has really been talking that JRPG itch. It’s a fusion of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, luckily it uses the mechanics of Megami Tensei with characters from Fire Emblem mixed in. I had to look up who these characters were, but it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the game. It features pop idols becoming heroes, which admittedly is the simplest way to explain it, and actually fits the theme well. I’m at a point where I am under levelled to finish the section, but I’m genuinely not upset to do some grinding and max out states on weapons.

Breath of the Wild I’m kind of struggling with. I think I may need a guide, or to just make some very detailed notes. I don’t have the best coordination skills, and while I can solve the problems, I’m either too slow, or I’m having trouble remembering the button combinations at crucial moments. I don’t quite have the muscle memory for it. I can see a lot of potential, and I adore the art style. I think it’s just a matter of figuring out where I need to go and taking the time to really embrace the world. I did put in about 15 hours, and then spent so long away from it, that I decided to restart the whole game. A decision I do regret, but I’ll get back on it.

Yu-Gi-Oh: Legacy of the Duelist I somehow sunk 35 hours into in a week. Which baffles me completely. It takes about a week for the Switch to really track your playtime, so when I was finally able to check the play time, I was kind of shocked. I do heavily recommend the game, especially if you were a kid when the original show and card game came out. I followed the game for a long time, but sort of dropped off during the 5Ds era. Playing the game on a Switch has actually been a really fun brain teaser like experience. I need to really think through each of my turns and consider what cards I want to use. This has been helpful for just rebooting my brain. It’s also been helpful for properly teaching me Syncro, XYZ, Pendulum and Link summoning. Link is the only one I still haven’t really figured out.

Sonic Mania I absolutely love! It’s old school Sonic that pays tribute to multiple eras of Sonic across his history. I have to really pay attention to subtle ques and really try to figure out what’s coming next. One the many cases where I failed a level, it wasn’t a case of ‘uh. I have to do it again?’. I genuinely looked forward to doing the level again and trying to do it better. It’s fun and one I’m looking forward to completing with each of the chaos emeralds.

Crash Team Racing was a big part of my childhood and getting to play it on the switch with updated graphics just made me incredibly happy. Some of the added features are alright, but it’s primarily the older maps that catch my attention. There are stages here where my old school muscle memory kicked in and it was like I’d never put the game down in my life. The extra racers really are brilliant especially the random inclusion of Spyro!

I have other games like Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Age, and Let’s Go Pikachu I would carry on talking about, but I think I’m getting away from my point. The fact that I can use this console as both a system to plug into a tv or projector to show friends or students something interesting, as well as a personal gaming companion when I need it or just want to chill out for a few minutes. That’s something I couldn’t imagine as a kid, playing my little Game Boy on the go, or PSOne at home.

It’s a system I do heavily recommend, and given Nintendo’s sales figures, I’m not the only one.

The Beautiful 5th form of Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla is a brilliant modern-day interpretation of the classic Godzilla film. It’s completely worth watching just to see how it adapts to the 2010s. While the first Godzilla is a reaction to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Shin Godzilla is a reaction to Fukushima. A tragedy almost on the level of Chernobyl. But something that really sets Shin apart is the creature’s ability to mutate itself. Something we see through the film as it goes from a completely aquatic creature, to walking on land, to its ‘final’ form. The creature is somewhat more rubber like in its texture, but truly lives up to the nightmare fuel the original was intended to be.

However, the final seconds of the film features an additional mutation sprouting from his tail. This image, aside from test footage, is the only footage of the film which is a practical artefact. It features these amazing, humanoid type figures sprouting from Godzilla’s tail, reaching for the sky.

The concept art shows these figures in more detail. They seem to take on an almost vampiric look, with humanoid structure, though lacking eyes. They have the distinct fins of Godzilla sprouting from their shoulders and back, while further images seem to also show spinal columns protruding out.

Some of these designs, especially the feminine design, seem heavily fleshed out. More than just something to leave the film ambiguous. Given Hideaki Anno’s involvement, the man behind Neon Genesis Evangelion, its not surprising to see these kinds of images within the concept design, but it raises the question, will this lead to something?

I Can See! Time to Read Some Comics…

I can see! Thanks to the this global pandemic, I haven’t been able to get back onto campus for about 15 weeks. To the best of my knowledge, I’d left my glasses in the office, and given the world hadn’t gone into lockdown yet, I figured I would just pick them up next time I was in work. To the best of my knowledge, that would be the following morning to see my Storytelling and Gaming students. Well, that never happened. I’ve been working remotely from work ever since. That experience has taught me a lot, but it’s also been rather difficult. Looking at the screen for an extended time hurts. My eyes are just a little blurry without them, but they get extremely tired very quickly without my glasses.

I’d been asking security for a little while to see if they could go into the office and have a look for them, but it seems they have been lost in the deep clear (which does make me worry a little about my books and the figure I have on the desk near my monitor (Though to be fair, the books and figure are towards the wall, while my glasses would have been on the chair or towards the edge)). I called up the opticians today and explained the situation. Since my prescription is on file, they managed to whip me up a new pair in about an hour.

Studying and reading has been an absolute nightmare, but with my sight restored, I’m reading some comics! I’m going to start with something short, Superman/Batman: Generations. Perhaps even Superman: The Dark Side.

Needless to say, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to read and research now. Struggling to read while trying to do your doctorate is a nightmare and really pushes anxiety to its edge. I’m eagerly looking forward to diving into the next road on studying.

Summer/Lockdown Comic Reading

The year started off a little rocky but fun. Started teaching on the animation course, so my personal reading had to take a back seat. Because I started my PhD, my reading had to be very selective. Then the world sort of stepped into a Stephen King book. Myself, and my co-workers had to quickly learn to adapt to teaching from our homes. A challenge that was a little easier what with knowledge of putting video essays together, as well as technology such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, Discorn and Stream. Add to that extra work loads with marking, and then my own doctoral research, it’s been a crazy 6 months. Health wise, mine has been declining. Body hurts a lot more, medicine doesn’t help, but a physiotherapist is now in the mix.

April did see an amazing weekend in the form of At Home Comic Con. Set up by amazing friends, primarily Owen of Owen Likes Comics, Matt Draper and Comic Drake. I got to be on two panels for that day, and we managed to raise just over $7,000. Just shy of the goal, but still an amazing achievement. Here’s hoping we do another next year.

With Summer here, and some time to actually stop and read between research and projects, I wanted to set out some goals for books I want to tackle. I gained quiet a bit recently, and others I’ve had sat on the shelf for a while, but I want to make it a goal that I do get some of this stuff off of my back list. It can feel pretty oppressive having no finished or read a lot of this stuff, since you somehow feel lesser for having not read them.

The Authority Omnibus:

I bought this around Christmas along with the Planetary Omnibus. Planetary I somehow read in a single day and did greatly enjoy, though the fact that I did finish it in a day meant that I need to go back at some point and figure out what actually happened beyond surface level plot. Going into Authority I know very little other than a few details such as specific characters like Apollo and Midnighter. Then again, the only detail I know about them is that it’s essentially “what if Batman and Superman were gay and in a relationship?” But from the interesting writing of Planetary, I’m very curious to see how this pans out, and how it connects more to Planetary.

Doomsday Clock:

The second hardcover is being released in England on the 16th of June, about a week and a half from now. I have read the first few issues of Doomsday Clock, about 5 issues in full. But I realised this was something I wanted to read in one go, maybe not a single sitting, but I wanted all the issues available. I figured this would be the case as the single issues were coming out. Which is why the only issues I own are signed ones I managed to get from eBay. Mostly because every time Gary Frank has been in the country, I’ve missed him. I’m not the most on board with their being a sequel to Watchmen, but the idea of the public finding out what Veidt did is something that intrigues me. As Moore says “I leave it entirely in your hands” and the thought the public did find out was part of my personal canon. I know roughly how the story ends, but I am yet to experience it myself.

War of the Gods:

I picked these up in single issues primarily because of how bad friends and aquintences have told me the story is. I’m not too sure if that is due to execution, or actual plot. But it’s only 4 issues long, and let’s just say I’m morbidly curious.

Invasion!:

I do love Event comics, and I love comics from the 80s. I cam across the storyline Invasion from reading the Omnibus for Superman: The Exile. Seeing some of the before, during and after, does lead to a lot of curiosity. That and the overall cover for the trade, which seems to have also been an advert for the storyline, is very well done and does lead you to want to check it out.

DC One Million Omnibus:

I did actually start reading this, but had to put it down due to work and other commitments. The story is interesting. The Justice League of the future preparing for Superman’s return, and going back to their 90s counterparts to bring them to the future. Looking at the future, especially the idea of Pluto now being a prison planet watched over by Batman. I’m curious to see what will happen when Superman returns, as well as the plot for why the Justice League are brought to the far future.

Emperor Joker:

My reasons for having it on the list are very simple. I keep hearing about this, and really do need to get around to it. The idea of the Joker gaining most of Mxy’s powers and using it to rule the world. Yep, need to read that. Some of the things I’ve heard really have me curious, like the multiple deaths of Batman, eating all of china, and turning Harley Quinn into a constellation.

Adventures of the Super Sons:

I adored the original Super Sons run, so absolutely need to read this. I’ve read the first two or three issues, but now I have both trades waiting to be read. The plot is essentially the crazy adventure Damian and Jon goes on during their summer break. After the main series has now aged Jon up and essentially split up the Super Sons, this is a much needed addition to my life.

Batman Rebirth Deluxe Vols 2 – 4:

I’m behind, okay!!

I have a good amount more, but I think just putting these down now is a good starting point.