July 22, 2009


I bought a new book yesterday:

I met the author yesterday at Border's and talked to him for a long time.

His book focuses on many things I've been thinking about: mainly, not forgetting the spiritual when dealing with the physical. It's something that adds structure to what I'm already trying to do and in talking with the author for a long time I found that this book probably will help me with some of my goals.

I'm not trying to lose weight to look better (although, some people have noted that I look like I've lost some weight and that feels good; also, I really want my wife to think I'm hot again). I'm tryingto lose weight because I want to be healthy. I want to have energy. And I realize that I've got people who look up to me, like my children. To my son, I am a symbol of what it means to be a Christian man.

I like Ron. He's a passionate, nice guy with a heart for changing the world, and he wants to reach people's hearts. I agree: the lethargic and sedentary lifestyle that Americans have adopted is just as much a spiritual problem as it is a physical problem. I think too often that Christians forget the physical and focus solely on the spiritual, while agnostics and atheists focus solely on the physical while forgetting the spiritual.

More on this will be forthcoming, as I read the book . . .

~ Ben

July 21, 2009

More reasons the iPhone is the most awesome device on the planet

I've been doing some research on iPhone development. I don't pretend to be able to be a developer -- supposedly the iPhone programming code is easy to use, if you know how to use programming code, but I have no pretensions about being able to do it myself. (Heck, I had a haard enough time installing this new Blogger template!)

No, I've been researching it so that I can be knowledgeable as I try to step into the realm of iPhone comic apps. I want to know what to look for . . . and who to look for.

So articles like THIS are interesting to me:

App Watch: Mirror, Mirror on the iPhone, for Free

Favorite bits from the article include:

By Inner Four co-founder John Swartz’s own admission the app “doesn’t do anything.”


Even inside the company, the developer who created the app has become the butt of jokes. Its description on the App Store actively discourages users from downloading it, saying “Honestly, don’t download this. It is just a blank screen with a frame.”


AdWhirl’s co-founder Sam Yam says the app could generate as much as $2,000 a day in ad revenue. “Maybe because there’s no use for the application, they click on the ads,” says Swartz.

Wow. Now THAT'S the American spirit at work!

On a different angle, there's this guy:

His post is very interesting and very eye opening. Basically, he's created a game for the iPhone. The game cost him $32,000 to develop. In its first month, it netted him $535. Not a great return on investment. But his article, and updated articles, cover a number of facets. Update articles include him getting a minor upswing when his first article was picked up by Slashdot (w/ some responses to feedback he's gotten); a post where he announces a mark down on the game's price; and a "Number Post: Part 2" that details more follow up information about his game, upswings from press and exposure, and dropping the price. All of it makes for a VERY interesting read, quite educational, that I recommend to anyone who's interested in developing for the iPhone. I appreciate his whole "brutal honesty" thing, and have taken the information he's shared to heart.

But the interesting thing to me about the iPhone is that here are two examples (and I say this without irony, now) of the American spirit, Or whatever you want to call it. The iPhone has taken publishing and distribution to a new place. Like the internet, it breaks down the walls with their gates and gatekeepers and allow anyone to find an audience.

I can't wait to see the TouchBook when it comes out . . . which will be that cross between the Kindle and the iPhone. (I'm guessing; I don't know if it's really coming.) But we're looking at a whole new frontier here. To quote Scotty from the new Star Trek movie: "I like this ship, it's exciting!"

Now, off to get that developer working on our comic reader!

~ Ben

July 17, 2009

The iPhone: Universe's Most Amazing Machine

And here's proof . . . a video from a guy who dropped his iPhone in a pool while shooting video . . . wait until you see what he says after fishing it out:

Wow. Just . . . wow.

~ Ben

July 6, 2009

THE WAY OF THE WRITER: Nothing New Under the Sun

So I was all set to get excited about Tim Burton's new Wonderland movie, assuming it, like Willy Wonka, was going to be an adaptation of the book.

I was wrong.

Here's a description of the plot, from Slashfilm:

"The film is actually a sequel to the original story, and follows Alice, now 17 years old, as she escapes from a snooty party and follows a white rabbit down a hole, back to Wonderland. The White Rabbit is convinced that he has the right girl, the one who had visited the magical land ten years prior. But Alice doesn’t remember her past visit to Wonderland. The creatures of Wonderland are ready to revolt and are hoping/waiting for Alice to help them, but will she? Can she?"

The problem? It's not a problem, really. Just that it sounds a lot like the plot of this comic book:

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #0
Cover by Casey Heying

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, published by BuyMeToys.com. (I'm the writer of the book.) Issue #0 came out four years ago. Issue #4, wrapping up that first story arc, will come out this year.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #1
Cover B by Phil Noto

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles is a bit different from Burton's Wonderland, in that both Dorothy from Oz and Alice from Wonderland have grown up and gone back to Oz and Wonderland, after not remembering their past visits to those magical lands. And in The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, the creatures ready to revolt are from OZ, not Wonderland (although the creatures from Wonderland are certainly going to help), and they are waiting for Dorothy to help them.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #1
Cover A by Joe Jusko

So, yeah, they're not exactly alike. But they are similar enough to make me feel a bit uncomfortable. I mean, our story and Burton's, on a surface level, are very similar.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #2
Cover A by Joe Jusko

Please don't get me wrong. I have no doubt in my mind that Burton and his team have NEVER seen The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, nor have they heard of it. I'm certain of this. I'm not suggesting that they have stolen/plagarized anything.

This is just a great example of the "there's nothing new under the sun" concept of writing.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #2
Cover B by Boris

In truth, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to story telling. I mean, once you boil stories down to their core, you're left with just ONE story:

"Somebody wanted something, and something got in the way."

Seriously, apply that to ANY story. 99.99999 out of 100 times, it'll fit. (The other 0.00001 times out of 100, when it doesn't apply, are just because we weren't creative enough in the application. :) )

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #3
Cover A by Joe Jusko

But there's nothing new under the sun. What makes something NEW is how the story is told.

For example, I sincerely doubt that Burton will use the "sword in the stone" motif that we used in Oz/Wonderland #3. That's something "new" that I brought to the "new Wonderland story" table. It separates Burton's story from ours, because while on the surface our stories are similar, underneath you've got two very different people with two different backgrounds doing two different things.

Of course, in doing so I've ripped off a classic fantasy image. Hopefully, what we turn around and do with it also takes it to a different place than the original, and countless imitations, do and did.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #3
Cover B by Glen Orbick

"There's nothing new under the sun". It's somewhat depressing, especially in a situation like this, where someone HUGE, like Burton and Disney, are doing something so similar. I was involved in another situation like this, when I worked on the series Auto-B-Good a while ago. I wrote one episode of the series about anthropomorphic cars, and the weekend I flew out there to meet with the producers about some other things, the Pixar movie Cars came out . . . about anthropomorphic cars.

I had a concept called Quantum Mechanics that I was going to develop, but ended up combining the characters with another concept of mine called Timeflyz. The marriage worked well, and not long after making the change I saw a comic book come out called Quantum Mechanics. Good thing I changed the title!

It happens all the time, though. Two asteroid movies the same summer, two volcano movies the same summer, two Robin Hood movies the same summer, etc.

Truly, there's nothing new under the sun. There's not much that can be done about it, other than this: tell YOUR stories, tell them to the BEST of your ability, and tell them NOW . . . before someone else does. Someone like Tim Burton!

~ Ben

July 2, 2009

Nano Film Review #25 -- Up

Three reviews in one:

PART ONE: The Movie

Up is tender, silly, touching, and fun. Like Star Trek, if you don't tear up just a little bit in the first ten minutes (or at least think about tearing up), you're a cold stone hearted freak. (Maybe a bit harsh. Sorry.) The ending also has a few moments that are emotional and lump-in-the-throat-inducing.

The movie is not a kids' movie that's good for adults as well, it's an adults' movie that's good for kids, in my opinion. It's about living and dying, letting go of the past and embracing the future. There's a scene at the beginning of what I would call act three, where the old man has to choose between his planned future and the unexpected future that was dropped in his lap that becomes one of the greatest portrayals of the concept of "you can't take it with you" that I've ever seen in a movie. (As my shop teacher used to say, "We came into this world bare bottomed, we're leaving it bare bottomed.")

I loved this movie. It may have knocked WALL*E out of the running as my favorite Pixar film. A bit scary for some kids at one point, but a fine film.


I saw this movie in 3D. It's the first modern movie I've seen in 3D. In fact, the only OTHER film I've seen in 3D is Michael Jackson's Captain EO. (Captain EO . . . wow, directed by Coppola, story by Lucas, starring Jackson, score by James Horner . . .)

Up was great in 3D. I thought it'd look like a Viewmaster image or something, but no. The shading and everything made it look quite realistic, as if I were looking at a stage with these actual people and settings right in front of me. It didn't feel emersive, like I was IN the action, but that's okay. It was an interesting way to see the film.

Of course, I paid for the glasses. Automatically. And then I was asked to "recycle" the glasses I just bought. I wonder, though, since I kept them, if they'd not charge me next time I went.

I'm guessing not, although I will try.

PART THREE: Partly Cloudy (the short film before Up)

Partly Cloudy was cute and short and nice. I was surprised, while watching the main feature Up, to see a few incidental thematic tie-ins with Partly Cloudy. I don't think Partly Cloudy is the best of the Pixar shorts, but it works. It's fun and has a nice resolution, story-wise. And it was a decent set up to get me ready for the main feature.

~ Ben

WAITING FOR THE TRADE: Hulk -- Heart of the Atom

So what did new comic day (Wednesday) bring to me?

The latest issue of X-Men? The newest development in the ongoing soap opera that is Superman . . . or Batman . . . or Spider-Man? The comic book adventures of Star Trek, Transformers, or Terminator perhaps?

No, all of those things were brand spanking new and on the shelves, but nothing appealed to me.

So I took a look at the graphic novels shelves at my local comic shop and found this gem that I had considered getting a long time ago. I was casually acquainted with the story inside, and decided that this would be my new comic for new comic Wednesday: a collection of stories between 30 and 20 years old.

Like Iron Man's Doomquest and Sword of the Atom (another collection I hope to review soon), Heart of the Atom takes the Incredible Hulk and drops him in a land of swords and sorcery. And for that, it's a cool concept. It's also developed a little further than Doomquest, as Hulk returns there a number of times over the years of publishing. (The collection alone contains ten issues from the Incredible Hulk, and one stand alone What If? issue.) Like many fantasy stories (John Carter of Mars especially comes to mind) we have a hero dropped into a strange alien landscape. This time, though, the hero is more than equipped to handle the challenges thrown at him. He is, after all, the Hulk.

Launching off with a story by Harlan Ellison (if you know who he is, you know why that's pretty incredible to begin with), the Hulk is shrunk down to microcosmic size where he comes to rest on a world smaller than an atom. This world is populated by creatures and people who seem to come straight out of Middle Earth or Narnia or Hyperboria and they use primitive weapons and magic and what technology they once possessed is now long gone, save some artifacts here and there used by evil people. Oh, and they're all green.

I expected this to be a "Hulk smash puny dragons . . . and medieval armies . . . and magicians". But while that was an element, I was surprised to find out as I read through this thing last night, it was really a romance, as Hulk fell in love with the (green) queen of this world. A parallel storyline develops on earth as Betty Ross, Bruce Banner's one time lover, falls in love and gets married as well.

But Hulk's relationship, and the consequences of it both in her world and his, form the spine of these stories. Since these stories develop over numerous intermittent issues of a monthly comic, taking years to come to a conclusion, I'm surprised how well this holds up as a straight narrative (although, there were a couple points where they had a page of text to tell the story of the fifteen issues between the ones they chose to put into this volume). This story is a tragedy, of course, but it ends on just the right note. Judging from the notes between stories, it seems there have been a couple more recent stories with Hulk returning to that world, but from their description I'm glad they weren't including in this collection. That would have ruined the satisfying conclusion of this storyline.

Bottom line, it's a love story. A love story set in '70's and '80's era Marvel comics, with a fantasy background. I enjoyed it and was surprised how emotive it was. Normally, I associate Hulk with anger and rage (and there was plenty of that in this volume), but because of the magic of the fantasy world Hulk's humanity is allowed to come into play, and his other emotions. I mentioned above that Hulk was more than equipped to handle the challenges thrown at him by this fantasy world, and that almost makes this a boring story. Except for one thing: he's not equipped emotionally to deal with what happens.

Check it out at your local comic shop (they should be able to order for you, and if you're not sure where your closest comic shop is, you can find out here: The Comic Shop Locator), OR you can buy Hulk: Heart of the Atom here!

Visit the Waiting for the Trade bookstore here, where you can buy, from Amazon, many of the comics I'm reviewing!

~ Ben