Sunday, October 31, 2010

Calamity Jack

Calamity Jack is the sequel to Rapunzel's Revenge that I posted about yesterday. Written by  Dean and Shannon Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale it is a quite good re-imagining of Jack and the Beanstalk. Quite a bit more steampunk influence in this graphic novel than there was in the previous, but that's ok as I like steampunk. :-)  The Wild West/Fairy Tale/Steampunk universe they've created seems very natural, blends together quite well and really adds to the story. The characters also grow and evolve and aren't just paper-thin unchanging caricatures. Very good stuff. Highly recommended!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rapunzel's Revenge

Now here's a really cool graphic novel. "Rapunzel's Revenge" is written by  Dean and Shannon Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale and  is a re-telling of the fairy tale Rapunzel but with a neat twist. It's set in a fairy tale/old west type setting with a bit of steampunk thrown in for good measure. I really enjoyed it and I think you will too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Smurfing Good Time!

 If you like the Smurfs and you also like comics, then have I got some smurfing great news for you. Papercutz  has acquired the license to release the original Smurf comics in the United States in English. These have been out of print in the U.S. for quite some time so this is some Smurf-tastic news.

The Purple Smurfs  (aka The Black Smurfs) has never been released in the U.S. before so this is a welcome surprise. Available now from or your local bookstore.

The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, featuring the first appearance of the Smurfs, is also available now from or your local bookstore.

The Smurf King  is one of my favorite smurf stories. It's not yet available, but is scheduled to be released on November 23, 2010. That's less than a month away! You can pre-order this gem at

 The Smurfette tells the tale of how Smurfette came to join the rest of the Smurfs. It's scheduled to be released on January 18, 2011. Pre-Order it at

 The Smurfs and the Egg just became available for pre-order on It's scheduled to be released on March 23, 2011.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace

Similar to "The Complete Peanuts" books, Fantagraphics Books is also releasing Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace in a similar 25 volume collection. Each book is available individually or in boxsets.

The reproduction and printing quality of these sets is amazing. Fantagraphics Books shows it's dedication to quality and these are well worth picking up.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sam and Max Season 2 Episode 3 - Free!

Telltale Games are at it again. This time they are giving away a free copy of Sam and Max Season Two Episode Three: Night of the Raving Dead. This offer is only good until Halloween, so snap it up while you can.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back To The Future Episode One - FREE

Telltale Games is currently producing an episodic point and click adventure game based on Back to The Future. I've played several of the other game series produced by them and they have all been top-notch. Great production values and fun to play. The best part is they are currently giving the first episode away for FREE!  Follow the link and register for your free game (coupon code 121GIGAWATTS) and they'll email you when it becomes available. Tentative schedule is early December. It will be available for both the PC and the MAC, so register today!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Downfall of Pompeii

One really neat board game my friends and I have been playing recently is "The Downfall of Pompeii" by Mayfair Games Inc.  It's a fun game where your object is to escape the city as the volcano erupts. It's a 2 to 4 player game, only takes about 45 minutes to play and it's age rating is 10+.


In the year 79 A.D., the beautiful city of Pompeii sits at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. For years, the lovely town has attracted the best of Rome's citizens, and it is famous for both its businesses and luxuries. But a terrible secret lies deep beneath the slopes of the mighty mountain. A secret that will unleash unspeakable horrors on the fateful afternoon of August 24th...

Come to beautiful Pompeii with this exciting game! You will use cards to attract your Roman friends and relatives to the town. But hidden in the deck is the dreaded Vesuvius card! Once this card is drawn, the volcano will erupt, raining fire onto the unsuspecting city! Now you must struggle to escape the doomed city, rushing to avoid the constant streams of lave that threaten to engulf your people! Will you be able to save them all? The player with the most survivors will be the winner!" -- Text Blurb From the Back of the Box

 (image borrowed from

One of my favorite parts of the game is when I lay down a lava tile and can then take some of my opponents pieces and drop them in the volcano. This youngster looks to be having just as much fun as I do doing the same thing.

It's manufacturer's suggested retail price is $44.99, which is a bit steep, but you can pick it up from for only $35.99 with free shipping.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

If you're like me and like to play board games, then the number one spot on the internet for information is

(The Settlers of Catan - One of the more popular board games amongst board game geeks.)

It's a gathering place with a great group of people who help each other out. It's a great place to find parts list, instructions, tips on where to find new or used games, plenty of community reviews to help you find the right game to fit your needs, direct access to many game designers and much more.

For example, I bought a brand new shrink wrapped copy of a board game called "Pirate King" that when I got it home and opened it up I found all the pieces were covered in mold. I had purchased the game at a shop several hundred miles from home while on vacation so I couldn't return it. It turns out the first edition of the game had some quality control problems (missing pieces, mold, etc.) and the entire stock had been scheduled to be destroyed. An unscrupulous person instead of destroying the games, sold them back into the supply chain. The game's author felt so bad that even though it wasn't his fault, he sent me a free second edition copy of the game at his own expense. He didn't have to do that, but he did and that's just one example of the great people you can connect with at

 (Image borrowed from

If you decide to pick up a copy of Pirate King, go for the second edition (the one on the left). If you run across a copy of the one on the right (the first edition with a much larger box) DON"T BUY IT! Technically it's considered stolen property not to mention it's probably full of mold.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Game! The Witty Online RPG

Lately I've been playing a free online role-playing game called "Game! The Witty Online RPG".  If you like puns you'll like this game. It's completely browser based so you don't need to install anything on your pc.  The games author created and maintains the game as a side hobby so he's not in it for money.  He's also very open to people contributing to the game. If you feel the game mechanics don't work the way you think they should, or if you come up with new enemy or quest scenarios or feel like submitting some artwork feel free to post in the  forums.

One of the enemies you encounter is the Account Ant

The game seems a bit simplistic at first, but the longer you play the more complex you realize the game is. With numerous items to uncover,  foods to create, enemies to slay, quests to fulfill, and general zaniness, Game! The Witty Online RPG is a lot of fun. Give it a whirl, I think you'll like it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred

While perusing the stacks in my local used book store, I ran across a book in the graphic novel section called "Grease Monkey" by Tim Eldred (produced by Tor Books). Pulling the book from the shelf, I looked at the cover and immediatly started laughing. The image of a humanoid gorilla wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a no crap symbol on it struck me as hilariously funny. Flipping through the book, I was struck by the high quality of the artwork. I started reading it and found myself engrossed in the story. I knew I had to buy it, so I did. It was worth every penny.

I was also pleasantly surprised that it was relatively clean as well. It's been my belief that the best writers have a tendency to be the ones who can write a good story without resorting to sex or gratuitous violence. It's too easy to use either one to pad out a story or to cover up other deficiencies such as a mind-numbingly boring plots, poor characters, etc. The majority of the current output from Hollywood seems to back up my argument. In any event, "Grease Monkey" has neither of these and manages to tell a great story, with plenty of humor, interesting characters and a decent art style.

The author has the first six chapters available on his web site  as well as an electronic first draft of  the sequel called "Grease Monkey: Book 2 - A Tale of Two Species" (The sequel is planned for print publication but a release date has yet to be announced.)

My friend Mike, who doesn't really like comics or graphic novels, was bored one day and decided to try "Grease Monkey". He LOVED it! Now he owns a copy of it too. You should pop on down to your local bookstore or head on over to and pick up a copy. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Secret of the Martian Moons


Another classic title from the Winston Science Fiction series is "Secret of the Martian Moons" by Donald A. Wollheim.  This is a rip-snorting classic of science fiction from the 1950's. In the 22nd Century, mankind has colonized Mars, but they were not the first to step foot there. All across Mars, strange abandoned cities of a long vanished race beckoned to Man. Who created these cities? Where did they go? With a decent amount of action and an interesting mystery to solve, "The Secret of the Martian Moons" is well worth picking up if you can find a copy.

There's no free electronic download for this book like there is for "Star Conquerors" so you'll just have to keep an eye out at your local used book store, thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, ebay, or The hardcover edition went through several printings (possibly as many as six) and  Tempo books also reprinted it as a mass market paperback in 1963. With that many copies floating around you should be able to pick one up for a reasonable price if you keep your eye out. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Star Conquerors by Ben Bova

Ben Bova is a quite famous science fiction author today, but that wasn't the case back in 1959. His first novel "The Star Conquerors" was released as part of the Winston Science Fiction juvenile book series.   It details the Terran Confederation fighting against an ancient Star Empire ruled by The Masters. Don't let the juvenile part scare you away, the book is still an enjoyable read even if you're an adult.

Endpapers from the Winston Science Fiction Series

As quite a few notable science fiction  authors produced books as part of the Winston Science Fiction series, the prices can sometimes go quite high for certain volumes. "Star Conqueors", it being Ben Bova's first novel and not having been reprinted is one that goes for a hefty price. "How am I going to read it if I can't buy it?" you might ask. The answer lies in Ben Bova himself. He released an electronic PDF file of "Star Conqueorors" on his web site a few years ago for people to download and enjoy. While the file did later disappear after a site redesign, it is still  available via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Alive! My Zune is Alive!

My friend was about to throw out his 80gb Zune because it stopped working. All it would do is faintly show the battery charging symbol on the screen but it wouldn't charge up. I talked him into giving it to me instead of throwing it away and after a bit of research online, I determined it to just be a bad battery. I ordered a replacement battery off of Ebay for $10.50 with free shipping. It took a week to arrive from Hong Kong, but today it arrived in the mail.

In order to do the replacement I needed a T4 Torx screwdriver bit. Lowes had an 8-in-one screwdriver with bits for $6.18 so I was in business.

I followed these tear down instructions for the Zune 80GB which made my job a lot easier. Prying the case apart was the most difficult part of the procedure. Once I got it apart the removal of the old battery and the soldering in of the new battery went quite easy. Though I must point out I've been working with soldering irons for over twenty years so if you've never soldered before you might want to practice on some junk circuit boards before attempting this on your Zune. Here's a photo of the old battery I pulled out of my Zune.

After I soldered the new battery in place, I put the Zune all back together and then plugged it in to charge. It seems to be charging up fine now and is actually usable again.

Total cost to me $17.06 plus a half hour of my time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

Following up on yesterday's post, Disney produced a DuckTales theatrical movie release called DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp.  The story, animation, and voice acting are all top-notch. Definitely a decent movie. Unfortunately, it's a bit tricky to track down a copy of the DVD release. Disney, in it's infinite wisdom, only released it through their Disney Movie Club and Disney Movie Rewards Programs. So your choices are:

A: Get it from the Disney Movie Club. Go here to read the terms and conditions. At a bare minimum, You'll need to order 4 movies for $1.99 each (free shipping) + 1 movie at $14.95 (Free Shipping) + you'll need to make a second order with 4 regular priced movies for at least $19.95 each plus $8.42 in shipping. for a grand total of $111.13. Now this makes the assumption that you only pick movies that are $19.95 for the 4 regular priced movies. The thing is, you don't know what the prices for the movies you want are before you sign up. The terms and conditions only say the movies start at $19.95. This also assumes you order the four regular priced movies all at the same time to get reduced shipping. Otherwise if you order them separately you'll get dinged $3.95 for shipping for each movie. Now, if you get all the movies you want and they are all at the minimum price, it's not such a bad deal as $111.13 divided by 9 = $12.34 per dvd. But since Disney won't tell you what the prices for each dvd are beforehand, I would just assume that any movies you want are MORE than $19.95 each.All in all, you might want to just avoid this option unless you really want some of the other exclusive Disney DVDs available through the club.

B: You can get it for free from Disney Movie Rewards. For every Disney DVD you buy, there should be a Disney Movie Reward code inside the package. Go to the website, create an account, punch in the codes and you'll get points. Each DVD is usually 75 to 125 points each depending on the particular title. When you get 1200 points, you can order DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp on DVD in a two-pack with Donald in Mathmagic Land.

C: You can just pony up the $25-$30 plus shipping that sellers on ebay or Amazon are selling it for.

I wish Disney would just release this DVD into general release, these types of exclusives are just an annoyance. I've almost got enough reward points to order it myself so that's the route I'm going to take, but hopefully I've given you enough information so you can make an informed choice on the route you want to go.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The cartoon DuckTales, aired in the late eighties and early nineties, owes much to the work of Carl Barks. Many episodes of the show were adapted from stories originally written by him. The strange thing though is that Donald is hardly in the show at all, he only guest stars in a handful of episodes. Instead of Donald being the star, Uncle Scrooge takes center stage. Consequently, many of the stories originally written by Barks had to be changed somewhat to not include Donald. It's still a good show however, so don't be afraid to pick it up.

Three volumes have been released on DVD so far (Volume One, Volume Two and Volume Three) but the fourth volume is currently in limbo. Other Disney animation DVDs are in the same boat. Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers and Talespin have all had multiple DVD releases but in every case, the final volume to complete each series is being withheld from release. Why Disney is doing this is anybodies guess, but the fans aren't too pleased.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Walt Disney's Vacation Parade

Another garage sale find this summer was the 128 page Walt Disney's Vacation Parade #1 by Dell comics (circa 1950) that I only paid 50 cents for.

Not only does it have three Carl Barks duck stories (Vacation Time, Camp Counselor and Donald's Grandma Duck) but it also includes some other Disney comic stories as well as various puzzles and games. The following board game was presented as a two-page spread on pages 34 and 35.

(click on the photos to enlarge them).

Print it out, grab a friend and have some fun!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The King With Six Friends

I love going to garage sales. I can often find books quite cheap and old children's books even cheaper. For ten cents or a quarter I can buy a neat old book that's been out of print longer than I've been alive, but is still in decent shape and has gorgeous illustrations, a great story or, if I'm lucky, both. One book I found this past summer is a book that I used to own as a child called "The King With Six Friends" by Jay Williams and illustrated by Imero Gobbato.

With gorgeous illustrations and a great story of friendship and trust, this book should reside on everyone's book shelf.

Since it's out of print, you can't just wander down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy. Fortunately, there are several resonably priced copies currently available on Amazon.

Oh, and for those wondering how much I paid for this treasure, it was a whopping 25 cents. :-)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I love books but books cost money and money is in short supply these days. So what is a book lover to do? How about using This is a free service where people can swap books they no longer want for credits, which they in turn can use to order any of the nearly 5 million books currently on the site. Taken from the help section of the site:

How the Club Works

  • You have books in good condition that you do not want to keep.
  • After you have Posted the first 10 books to your bookshelf, you get 2 "startup" credits from PBS to get you started swapping.  After that, you earn credits by sending out books to others. Only the first account for a household receives startup credits.
  • You may order any available book for 1 credit each (paperback/hardcover). audio books cost 2 credits each.
  • If you want a book that is not currently available, you can place it on your Wish List and we will notify you by email when it is available for you to order.  You can even have it sent to you automatically when it becomes available, with no email necessary.
  • When a book is requested from you, we notify you by email, provide the address for you to send it out, and even provide a wrapper!
  • wrap and mail your book.
  • When the requestor receives it, you earn 1 credit (2 if it is an audio book). Yes, you pay the postage to send out your books, but when you request a book, the sender ships it to you free of charge!
  • The books you receive from PBS are yours. We hope that you will repost them to share with other members when you have read them, but you can certainly keep them, or give them away. Similarly, the books you send out to others belong to their new owners.
 I've been swapping books on the site for a couple of years now and it's been a really great way to get rid of old books I don't want and to get books that I've been looking for. One of the great things about it is the wish list. If there's a book you're looking for that's not available on the site, you can add it to your wish list. Then when someone posts the book to the site you will then be able to order it if you have a credit. If you don't have a credit available, you can purchase one directly from the site. If more than one person wants a book then you go into a queue. The first person to add a book to their wish list is #1, the second is #2, etc. When a book is posted, the person at the front of the line gets first dibs. Then everyone moves up a place in line. As more and more copies of a particular book get posted you will gradually move up the line until you're #1.

If you love books, you should try it out. It really is a cheap way to get books.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soda Pop Made With Sugar

One of my many interests is soda pop made with real sugar, preferably in a glass bottle. Unfortunately, most of the soda pop made in the U.S. contains High Fructose Corn Syrup so finding soda pop made with sugar can be a bit of a search.  My favorite soda pop is actually imported from across the border. Jarritos brand soda pop is really delicious, can be found all across the United States and is relatively cheap to boot. Most people don't even realize their local grocery store carries it because it's usually not stocked in the soda pop aisle. Most of the time it is stocked in the Mexican/Ethnic Foods aisle instead.

I've seen it sold for as little as $0.59 a bottle on up to $1.00 a bottle. In any event, you won't break the bank buying it and it tastes great! It's currently available in the following flavors:

It's sold in 13.5 oz. glass bottles as well as more expensive1.5 liter plastic bottles. My personal favorites are the Pineapple and the Lime. Most of the people I know who've tried it have liked it. One small bit of warning however, the glass bottles do not have twist off caps. You will need a bottle opener to open them.  Most people have a bottle opener floating around the house, but if you don't they're pretty cheap to pick up.

 If you've never tried a Jarritos before, check out your local grocery store, mexican food outlet or mexican restraunt, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Complete Peanuts

Fans of comic strips know how poorly most comic strips are treated when it comes to being reprinted. Shoddy printing, poor image quality, strips missing or censored, poor paper stock, cheap bindings, etc.  That, of course, assumes a particular strip gets reprinted at all. Thankfully, in the last couple of years several high quality compilations with extremely good reproduction quality have appeared. The trendsetter however is the fantastic work done by Fantagraphics Books on The Complete Peanuts.  These gorgeous hardcovers reprint the entire run of Peanuts in twenty-five volumes. Each book covers roughly two years worth of strips and are worth every penny.  They can be bought individually or in slipcases that contain two volumes each.  Fourteen of the twenty-five volumes have been released so far.

Roughly 2,000 (yes that's right 2,000!) Peanuts strips have never been collected before in book form so this will be the first time many people will get a chance to see them. If you love comic strips and/or love Peanuts, you NEED to start picking these up. They are that good! So run on down to your local bookstore or head on over to Amazon and pick up the first boxset. You won't regret it!

The Collected Works of Carl Barks

When I was just a wee lad, my mom, knowing I liked comics, would pick up stacks of old comics at garage sales. They were usually a bit ratty, the covers were usually missing, but I didn't care. The best comics were the old Donald Duck comics. The exciting adventures of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie and the rest of the gang in Duckburg would captivate me. Hidden cities, lost treasures, pirates, steaming jungles, scorching deserts, snow covered mountains, and much more awaited me in those musty old pages. I didn't realize it at the time, but most of the best stories were ones written by a gentleman by the name of Carl Barks. It was him who created some of the best characters or, at the very least, helped flesh out their personalities to what they are today.

(cover illustration by Don Rosa for the Carl Barks story "The Magic Hourglass")

The well over 500 Donald Duck stories he produced have been reprinted off and on over the years. A story here, a story there, but it wasn't until 1984 that Another Rainbow Publishing decided to publish them all in 30 hardcover volumes (three to a slipcase) called The Carl Barks Library. Unfortunately, these are long out of print. The other downside is the stories were only printed in black and white.

                                           (Image borrowed from an old ebay auction)

A few years later, Gladstone Publishing then began putting out thin graphic novel reprints of  his Donald Duck stories called The Carl Barks Library in Color. While the advantage to these is they were in color, the disadvantage is that instead of thirty volumes, they numbered 141. As they too are long out of print, good luck on trying to collect a complete set.

                                                   (Image borrowed from an old ebay auction)

Flash forward to today, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is there is a new 30 volume hardcover reprint collection IN COLOR called The Collected Works of Carl Barks.

The bad news however, is it is only available in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Spain.  It is currently not available in either the US or in English.  Gemstone Publishing had originally announced they were bringing it to the US, but they then ran into some financial difficulties and failed to renew their publishing license with Disney.

Boom! Kids however picked up the license from Disney and are now the official publisher of Disney comics in the US. They have not currently announced any plans to bring The Collected Works of Carl Barks to the US, so if you want to see this gorgeous collection see the light of day then please let Boom! Kids know.