Friday, December 7, 2012

Two Flus, Two dark warriors: stop worrying and love Nurgle

Mr. Harrison is always saying people want to know about us. That we need to be more active in this bloggytwitty world. So I am sure a lot of you know I haven't been at the store all week. I have the flu, not the worst I've ever had...but pretty bad. So here are some observations from the field.

A few years ago, the League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen recorded their Green Lantern show at our store. It was a great night but the next day I woke up with a horrible flu. Now this flu was the worst flu I have ever had in my life. One day was full on hallucinations. (oh the irony of all those experimental trips with lsd and shrooms....didn't you read the books? didn't you know that to be a shaman you almost have to die.?)

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think I almost died, but I was in a sorry, sorry state. The room was purple, I could see everything. I was awake.  Including Ultraman. By Ultraman I mean the evil Superman from Earth 3. We exchanged verbal communication. He was more real in that moment than my wife, who was at her desk across from us.

If you are like me, you chase such experiences all your life. Whether they are chemical or whether they are spirits are whether they are Jungian or whether they are Freudian makes no difference. Like Uncle Bill attributed to Hassan-i Sabbah "Nothing is true, everything is permitted."

But at this point yeah it's looking strictly chemical. And like any dream there always deeper elements mixed in the random bits of nonsense. But as humans we always have to be binary, it must be one or the other. I am still secure that it is not time to start the Ultraman cult.

This week's flu. To be honest it is not so bad compared to Ultraman. I still get a sneak preview of what my life will be like if make it to my 90's. I took a shower and I felt like I had just ran a marathon, I walked across the room and ran out of breath. I also had the obligatory fever night, just not near as bad. Just the fever dreams.

This fever dream another dark warrior. This time dressed as my Sith Warrior character in SWTOR. Communication is nonverbal this time. Purple is still a component. Orange is added to the mix. Also the same feeling is there. Like it is the same individual. A part of myself. A spirit. A fever induced misfire. yes.


Looking for the silver lining in the Nurgle colored phlegm,


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

So tired of hearing we are not a Game Store

So as the title suggests we get to see me (Eric) go on a Roy rant style bender.  Since our competitor opened we have heard this a time or two (For those keeping track besides word of mouth our competitor also posted these ideas on their facebook. Then on yelp they recommended every game store in town including us but while all the others had what great game stores they were it was only mentioned we were a comic store.)  But I digress  the final straw was last night, at the game night we sponsor no less, was the latest time.   It was pointed out (as business cards for our competitor were handed out) that it was not bad they opened up 3 blocks away.  The reason it was not bad:

-because we were mostly a comic store and not a game store.  

 -we had a small game selection

 -no gaming space

So I would like to address these and then add things I think make us not only a "game" store but the damn good game store.

- Our square footage is roughly 1/2 comics (on walls) and 1/2 for games (all on the floor fixtures).  By their logic I can't be a good comic store but they seem to think we are.  So if we have a good selection of comics why not games

- Facts about our "small" game selection.  We have extensive lines in Warhammer/40K, Privateer Press, and Heroclix.  In minis we carry 3/4s of reapers entire line.  Over in RPGs we have 71 different systems totally some 371 different books.  On the board game side (for this blog purpose non collectible card games count as board games but for the record we have about 115) Games + expansions we have over 400 games.  If you take out non collectible card games we still have just under 300.  And every week there is where from 1 to 5 new board games.  The one area in which we are weak is CCGs.  All we have is Magic because, to be blunt, the others sold like crap and were not worth the space.

- It is true we have no gaming space.  That is why we help found the South Austin Gaming Group.  They use to meet at Austin Pizza but when it got to big Jonathan and I looked at Rockin Tomato for the new venue.  Which seems to have worked pretty damn well as the group as grown from a few people to 40+.  As a side note I would like to point out that there have been at least 3 stores before we opened that were majority gaming space/ minority product.  You will be hard pressed to find them now, they have all closed.

So now that I have addressed those point let me add a few more things -

- We contributed more than any other game store to Give to Game, not only this year but every year we have participated.

- We were the top sponsor of Board Game Bash both years.  The only game store in town to really get behind Jonathan's efforts to build a Gaming convention. 

- Our gaming library is with Jonathan and available at any SAG game night. We are addeding games to that every time we get new demo copies. 

- Oh and we were the host for the official Steve Jackson Games 30th anniversary party.

Yeah we totally are not a game store.  What on earth was I thinking.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The $2.99 complaint

So in the past few weeks I have had several customers complain about our poster from DC that says "Holding the line at $2.99."  They usually make a annoyed sound and complain about the "Many 3.99 comics."  Roy and I have both pointed out DC only has a few of those titles and they give you additional material.  Most of the time they just shrug.  Sometimes they challenge what we are saying.  So here is an answer to all those that challenge Roy and I on this.  To be fair I will also give numbers for Marvel.  For both companies I am only looking at their core titles and not miniseries or annuals or specials.

DC (Core 52)  There are only 7 titles that are $3.99.  All 7, everyone, has 40 pages.  8 more pages than a normal comic.  That means there 45, I will say again 45 monthly titles, that are $2.99 for 32 pages.  Now 4 of the 7 titles are some of the most popular (Action, Batman, Justice League, & Detective).  So many people will see these prices as oppose to the $2.99.  Batman also started at $2.99 and then went up to $3.99, though they did increase the page count afterwards.  That means that roughly 87% of DC's core line is only $2.99.  That seems like a strong line to me.

Marvel by contrast has 54 core titles a month. 23 titles at $2.99 for 32 pages.  Roughly 1/2 of DC's monthly number at the same price.  29 titles at $3.99 over 4 times the amount DC has at the same price point.  And all 29 of these title are only 32 pages!  No additional content for your dollar.  1 title is at $4.99 for 32 pages.  Twelve of these are shipped twice a month.  Of those 1, Iron Man, ships once at $2.99 then again that month at $3.99.  2 others are $2.99 (Captain Marvel and Deadpool)  The other 9 are all $3.99 and are the top selling monthly titles for Marvel.

So overall, DC seems to be "Holding the Line at $2.99" rather well.  And the very few times they do not they give you extra content.  If only every company had the same respect for consumers.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

GM Philosophy

I am having a hard time coming up with my top 11 comic book stories. The list is too big and half the time I keep changing the criteria of "Best."

But what I have been doing is starting a Black Crusade rpg. And before that I was working on an Iron Kingdoms/WoW mashup epic saga. It has been ten years since I was in that seat, and I must tell you that my approach has changed considerably. I have softened where I used to be unyielding, and where I used to be merciful now I don't even care.

You read a lot in rpgs about ways to deal with problem players. I used to care about problem players. It drove me from the gaming table. Now I don't deal with problem players at all. They may still be there, the trick is that they are not problem players. They are just players.

I am not talking about the real problem players. People OOC rude or totally disruptive. Cheaters. the real villains. They get sorted pretty quick at our table.

No, I mean the Skulker/Wallflower. I mean the Combat Monster. I mean the Rules Idiot.

I used to care about the Wallflower who just listened. I used to stay awake wondering why the Combat Monster never wanted to engage in all this "talkie-stuff" going on. I used to try to fix it. This  ultimately killed my game. All Storytellers just embrace this truth: Garbage In, Garbage Out. This is the way to sanity.

As long as most of the people are engaged and YOU are having fun, let the Skulkers skulk and Combats combats. To be honest, it is less work on you.

I admit, Rules Idiots will be the hard one. I bought them all books. The answer will be "page 342." if it is the same damn spell they ask me about every combat. Just smile and say "page 342."

Also lets say people who don't read the background or that won't get the nuances of the story. That is still ok, as long as the player is having fun. He thinks Africa is a country, that is all. Garbage In, Garbage Out. One man's Marvel Civil War, is another man's (a real man's) Infinite Crisis. As long as the Airhead, the Skulker, and the Combat Monster keep showing up it is all good. They are not hurting you or your game. They may be getting out of it exactly what they want from it.

As long as you get enough interaction to keep your imagination going that is all that matters. You got to have some stars. Also those one note characters can become stars at any time. Keep giving them doors, but only they can decide to step through them.

How I have softened is more about narrative control. I used to be able to pull off a really good con. You felt like you had control and the fights mattered, but it was really all prescripted. It is all about acting, and giving them enough side stuff that they do have control of. Stuff that feels really important to them, but has no meaning to saga they are caught up in. I am pretty sure this is how most games are run. And it is fun.

But I am now more about giving player much more control of the story. You are like the head writer of a comic book line, and we all get together to do JLA. My job is the Editor- gotta keep is all consistent. That's a game.

To facilitate this you have to provide an immense setting, you have to have generic plot hooks all over the place. You have to dream your Saga, but let them go wherever. If you know the setting well enough you can improvise. It is a ton of prep. Also just makes modular. It is simple to have the cult be whatever Inn the characters go to. You have to think modular like that but on a grand scale.

Luckily for me, published adventures are much better than when I was a kid. I know 40k well enough and FFG has a lot of good stuff on my shelves. 

Eventually it should get to where the players are driving the story. The players should decide what they are gonna do and then I'll fill in the details.

This is not new wisdom, by any means. Well, maybe the stuff at the top is. Throw all that touchy-feely "try to engage the Wallflower" advice in the trash. You will be saner.

Words of Advice for younger people.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Top 11 stroylines part 1 Eric

What an uninspiring title.  Roy and I wanted to pick our top 11 storyline (or single issues) of all time.  We did feel we had to narrow it down some, so we decided it had to be from a normal ongoing series.  No miniseries, no one shots, no maxiseries.  Just a regular ongoing title.  Did not even have to be a current one. One small cheat on this would be miniseries like Hellboy, BPRD, Mouse Guard, and a few others.  They do a series of minis that form the ongoing essentially so they counted.  We have also noted at the end of each entry if they are collected in anyway and if that collection is in print.  So without further pomp here are my 11.

It goes without saying that these are in no particular order.  However the first one is my top pick.

1. A three way tie of my 3 single favorite issues of all time.  New Teen Titans VOL 1 Issues #38 "Who is Donna Troy", #39 "Crossroads", and #50 "We are Gathered Here Today".  I can not discribe in enough detail how much these issues effected me as a kid.  They are some of the first back issues I ever hunted down.  #38 is perfect character piece focusing on Robin (Dick Grayson) looking for the truth about Donna Toy's background before she was adopted by Wonder Woman.  It is incredible moving with no super heroics at all.  #39 Starts with lots of action but ends with Kid Flash and Robin giving up there heroic identities so they can find a new way in the world.  #50 is the wedding issue between Donna Troy and Terry Long.  No on appears in costume through the whole issue.  These 3 issues I think represent the best story telling ongoing series have to offer.  There is so much character development and so much emotion evoked in the reader for the main characters.  #39 is collected in the Teen Titans Omnibus V.2 HC.  #38 and #50 are in the Who is Donna Troy TP but will also be collected (and recolored) in the soon to be released Teen Titans Omnibus V.3 HC.

The Rest fall in no particular order.

2.  New Teen Titans #23-25, Annual #1:  For a single story arc, especially from the Wolfman/Perez Titans run, most people pick Judas Contract.  I mean even the story arc has a name.  It is true I love that arc (1st appearance of Dick Grayon Nightwing) but the Tamaran Story Arc from 23-25, Annual 1 I think is an under appreciated masterpiece of super hero drama. Star Fire is kidnapped and taken home.  The rest of the team pursues.  Giant space fights, super hero battles, and cool character moments really drive this piece home. 
It is collected in New Teen Titans Omnibus V.2 HC.

3. Ultimate Spider-Man Vol1 #8-13.  There are two major reasons this will always be on my top anything list.  First issue #13 is the absolutely sweetest issue of teenage love ever put into comics.  If you do not crack a smile at this issue you are dead inside.  The second reason is the finial confrontation between Kingpin and Spider-Man.  I will leave it at that.  This is all in Ultimate Spider-Man Vol 2 Learning Curve.

4. Avengers Vol 1 #270-277 "Avengers Under Siege"  One of the best super hero slug fests ever!  It is so well respect that the Avengers cartoon did its own version of it.  Collected in the trade Avengers Under Siege.

5. JLA VOL 1 #6-#7.  Grant Morrision relauch of the DC super team in the 90's has so many cool moments.  I will admit the there is only one reason this story arc is on my list, it has the greatest Martian Manhunter scene of all time.  And I love MM even if no one else does.  Collected in JLA VOL 1 TP

6. Mouse Guard Fall #1-6: I love the art.  I love the epic feel of the story.  What more left is there it say, except collected in Mouse Guard Fall TP

7. Sandman #21-28 "Season of Mists": So when Roy wanted to get me to read Sandman this is the book he handed me.  Not vol 1 but vol 4 and am I ever so glad he did.  This is one of the finest example of epic fantasy story telling in any medium!   Collected in Sandman Vol 4 Season of Mists TP.

8. Wonder Woman Vol 2 #170 "She's a Wonder": I will just say up front that sadly this book has never been collected anywhere.  Still the issue should be very cheap online or in back issue bends.  Another character piece I am so fond of, this one involving Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, an interview and a game of pool.  This simple stand alone issue captures both of these power female characters so beautifully.

9. Batman Vol 1 #404-407 "Year One."  I am not sure that anything really needs to be said about this other than it is the best Batman story in print.  Collected in Batman Year One TP and Deluxe HC.

10.  Legion of Super Heroes VOL 1 #294-296, Annual #1 "The Great Darkness Saga": Wow I am not sure I have the words to do this tale justice.  As any who has seen any collected version of this tale Darkseid is the big bad.  However in the story you are just given clue after till clue until the big reveal and it just floors you.  Still even with that spoiled it is a great story of ultimate evil and the brave few who try everything to stop it.  Collected in Legion of Super Heroes Great Darkness Saga Deluxe HC.

and lastly

11.  Amazing Spider-Man Vol 2 #50: "Doomed Affairs": This was the single issue that got MJ and Peter back together after a long separation.  Some of J. Michael Straczynski best work on Spider-Man.  He wanted those two back together and found a way to make it work while telling a pretty funny story of Spidy having to stop an attempted assassination of Dr. Doom.  Sadly the collections of this are no longer in print and marvel does not plan to reprint it.  Grab it if you see it.  Amazing Spider-Man JMS ultimate collection vol 2 TP.

So there are mine.  I am sure that Roy's will be up in a few days.  Hopefully you guys enjoyed it. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

National numbers just confuse me

As many of you know I have been doing this for several years.  My time as General Manager of the Lair and then my years here were educational.  Mainly they showed me how regional comic sales are.  Many times over the years it is reported that Nationally comic books sales are down.  Though last year with the new 52 sales were up on issues but down on Graphic Novels.  Yet that has never been the case were I have worked.  Sales year after year were up anywhere from 3 to 10 percent growth each year.  I have often wondered where these downward trends manifest.  I have been to several retailer gatherings over the years and they, for the most part, are almost always up.  So then where are the shops that are suffering these down turns. The greater Austin Area has always been weird in general.  So maybe that is what is going on.  Perhaps the other retailers I talk to are also in strange bubbles like Austin.  I just do not know.

On another note:

DC's survey they did with Neilson after the New 52 launched was released.  It showed the age of comic book readers being mostly 20 to 40.  Which is what I have been saying for years.  These are the new readers people need to reach, not 10 year olds.  I know that we all got into comics at that age.  I know our parents did and perhaps their parents.  But I think for years new readers have been coming from a  much older age than "conventional wisdom" would tell us.  Turns out the publishers knew who was buying there comics and retailers, fans, and others yelling for more kids comics did not.  I am not saying the industry would not grow if more kids read.  It would.  However the target demographic that we should be going for is 16 plus. How about woman.  That is a largely ignored demographic in our industry.  Because "conventional wisdom" says woman don't like superhero books.  Bull!  I have a good number of female customers.  They range in tastes just like my male customers.  And just like my male customers mostly they buy stuff from DC or Marvel.  Again maybe we are just in a weird bubble.

While I am shooting sacred cows of our industry let me take sight at another.  You DO NOT have to keep adult material shrink wrapped or out of arms reach of little ones.  Most of them are not going to want to look at something that does not have big bright colors.  Why do you think Bone went color.  And even if they do I have two things to say to that.  First it is not going to hurt the child.  It will not rot their brains or kill their senses of propriety.    Second, and I can not stress this one enough, it is not my job to police what your children see.  That is your job. 

Hmm I think I have offended enough of my colleagues in the industry along with parents I am sure.  Good thing not many people read this.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Best of the Year of the Rabbit.

So it is that time of year again for us to tell you what the best of the preceding year was in our opinion.    As you may know we do it a little differently here at Tribe.  We honor my wife Chinese heritage and do our list by the Chinese New Year rather than the western new year.  So here goes my Top Elven list.  (Another strange thing we do and if you want to know why top 11 instead of 10, all I can tell you is that it has to do with how many time zones there were in the Soviet Union.  Want to know more bug Roy.)

Eric's TOP 11

While these are in no particular order my number one choice is just that my #1

1. Titans Games GN

An original story from Wolfman and Perez with their Titans lineup from 20 plus years ago.  I must admit I was worried when I read the preview but then I read the full book.  They manage to capture the magic I loved so much from those stories.  I really loved this book.  If you are a fan at all of that era, this is one book you need to get.  (The New Teen Titans Omnibus is the other, man the recolored pages are AMAZING.)

All the rest are in no particular order
2. Daredevil

Mark Waid's Daredevil run is so damn good.  It is my favorite marvel book.  It is nice to see Matt Murdock not having his life be total shit all the time.  Plus Paulo Rivera draws Daredevil's rader and hypersenses in a way I have never seen done before and I think it is great when an artist can do this.

3. Batman (New 52)

While I am not a fan of the art the story by Scott Snyder is so damn good.  I love this book for that reason.  Also if you have not checked out his pre new 52 Detective run with Dick Grayson as Batman it is worth reading.  It is called Black Mirror.

4. Nightwing (New 52)

How could I not be a fan of this book it is my favorite character.  Alright I have hated a lot of what has been done by writers to this character in the last 10 years (Tomasi's run is the exception to that).  This book, however, managed to capture everything I love about Dick Grayson.

5. Amazing Spider-Man

Dan Slott's run has been really really good.  It has been fun without being overly tragic.  It had a huge event (Spider Island)  that not only did not feel the need to kill any major characters but had great character moments.  If only other writers at marvel could use this templete for crossovers maybe the others would not suck.

6. Aquaman (New 52)

Damn this book is great.  This book maybe John's best work ever.  The art is beyond beautiful.   And it is much a book about Mera as Aquaman.  I can not recommend this book more.  It is really really good.  If you have not checked it out come by and read the first issue at the table.  If it does not hook you nothing will.

7. GI JOE/ Cobra

Alright first one of three repeats from last year on this list.  We keep telling people about these books and few believe us.  I understand.  As I have said I never thought I would recommend a GI Joe comic.  These both are very good. GI Joe is the perfect popcorn action flick and Cobra the really captures crime books with a spy vs spy feel.  Trust me try these out you will be glad you did.

8. Morning Glories

Still on the list.  Still love this book.  Still have no idea what is going on.  Still think you should read! 

9. Fables

This book is just great! that is why it is the third one from last years list on this years.

10. Star Wars Legacy War

The end to the best Star Wars comic.  Takes place 125 years after return of the Jedi and it was magnificent start to finish.  The end was a little rushed because they were only given 5 issue to do it in but still with that this is by far the one of the best comics out.  The same creative team will be doing  a book (starting in march) showing the origins of the Jedi order.

11. Huntress

I know that Roy does not really like this book.  I will also admit that there maybe better books out there, but month after month I find myself looking forward to this all action book.  It is just a fun afternoon read.  Though I am positive that in issue six we will find out the whole issue takes place on earth 2 and it will be a lead in to the JSA.

Then my one cheat.  DC Presents Life Story of the Flash.  Another reprint of a GN that will not see light of day again.  Which is too bad.  This is not only a great Flash Story, it is in my all time favorite list for single stories.  You will love it!

So that is my list.  and Now Roy's

Roy's List:

1. Fantastic Four/FF - I have always liked Hickman's stuff, and his work on Marvel's first family is no exception. It is a very slow build, but the pay0ff is worth it.

2. Demon Knights- This is one of my favorite books from the new 52. It is a great combination of humor and fantasy.

3. Batwoman- The story is great and the art is fantastic.

4. Swamp Thing- I am so glad the poetry-readin'-french-cigarrete-smokin' wall that Vertigo put up around it's horror characters is gone! The Good Gumbo is back! A great horror book.

5. Animal Man- Another great horror title from DC. The art is especially creepy and fits the story perfectly.

6. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents- I love this book. I was only able to read a few of the old ones as a kid, the new series captures the feel of those old issues perfectly. Would you still try to save the world if everytime you used your powers it was killing you? There is also a lot of espionage and hidden agendas.

7.Journey into Mystery- It is the best thing Marvel is putting out right now. It reminds me of the mythic issues of Sandman. Kid Loki rocks and Mephisto is charmingly devious.

8. Uncanny X-Force- The second best thing Marvel is putting out. Lots of black humor and over the top action!

9. Wonder Woman- When we heard that Azzarello was writing Wonder Woman we were afraid. This is the man whose Superman was colder than a Vulcan from Star Trek. His Batman joked around with hookers. Surprisingly his Wonder Woman is not a piece of shit like most of his other DCU works. In fact it is quite good. His take on the Greek Gods is both classic and fresh at the same time.  Best Wonder Woman I have read since Rucka.

10. Aquaman- Great art and great story.

11. Neonomicon- This comic is not for the faint of heart. There is rape and violence in this Lovecraft inspired tale. What sets this apart from Avatar's usual line of juvenile gore-filled smut, is that this is really good story. The violence is not done to tittilate, but to disturb..which it does.

That is it. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Giving Report 2011

It's that time of year again where we give you guys a report on how much Tribe CAG and Tribe Customers were able to raise for Charity this year.  Things seemed a lot tighter all the way around.  There was a lot less to give and a lot less people asking.  Despite that we were able to support CASA with several fundraisers.  The good folks at Hero's Alliance took many donated comics and were able to use them through out the year at several fundraisers.  We helped out Team in Training with their Star Wars Themed fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Barton Hills Elementary had an auction for saving the school that we were able to give product to.  Two more area schools had silent auctions that we were able to help out.  Give to Game got several games from us plus I know a lot of you attended to help raise food for the food bank.  CBLDF again benefited from the can by the register.  All in all  between product and funds TRIBE CAG and Customers were able to raise a little more than $12000 this year. 

As some of you know we just started our keep the change program.  And though it is starting small I think it will have a big impact on next years report. 

These reports may sound a little like us tooting our own horn.  I assure it is not.  We do this every year so that you can see we are still committed to giving back as much as we can, as often as we can.  Well us and a little help from all our friends.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For as little as $.50 a visit

So as many of you know we try to donate as much as we can.  Our yearly report will be out in a few weeks when a catch up the books. For now let me explain a new idea that I had, and that we will be starting in a week or so.

This was inspired, in part, by our banks keep the change program.  In case your bank does not have it the program is they round up all your charges and put the change into your savings account.  Roy and like this idea but instead of keep the money for the store we thought why not save it up over a month and donate it.

As a result we are now offering customers the option of telling us "keep the change."  We will then put that into a pool and at the end of the month donate to a worth wild charity.  Mostly small local ones where a small amount of money can do the most good.

"Well," you ask, "who gets to choose what charity is worth wild?"  Why we do of course.  I will try to have a sign or poster up at the register so that every month you can see what your change is going to.  While you might not think .27 cents is a lot at 200+ customers a week that is around $200 a month that will get donated to charity.  This is in addition to everything else we do.

So please here in the new year, make it a habit of everytime you check out tell us to keep the change.  We will do the rest. Plus we will be periodically matching the amout of change gathered for donation.

Just another way we try to walk to the walk.