Geekin’

Morgan Rejoicing on Cover of DVD Geekin'In the first two minutes of the film Geekin’, the love interest Meredith provides ample warning, stating “Alright, this sucks.” Make no mistake about it: Geekin’ sucks. It requires a Fortitude check to make it through to some of the better parts at the end of the movie. Watching it two times was once too many. The framing of shots is bad, the picture quality is inconsistent, and the acting ranges from horrible to merely tolerable. Skullduggery was a pretty awful movie, but is many times more entertaining by comparison. To give Geekin’ some credit, it was in the vanguard of gamer films, released in 2006 by Digitribe Productions, and is most likely a first-time effort for most of the parties involved. Geekin’ bills itself as “Love, Jealousy, and Twenty-Sided Dice”, but the most accurate part is the jealousy. Geekin’ is a romantic comedy without any love and short on the laughs. If you like high school drama though and gamers squabbling, Geekin’ packs it in.

The plot of Geekin’ centers around childhood best friends and current twenty-somethings Morgan and Brown. Gamers Morgan and Brown come to odds over Morgan’s online friend Meredith. Besides his ponytail and leather jacket, Brown is a douche because he immediately starts hitting on his best friend’s love interest shortly after Morgan’s met her in the flesh, as well as putting Morgan down. Morgan is a whiny loser, “timid” in Meredith’s words, and behaves like a jackass during the middle portion of the movie. Despite being the film’s main character, Morgan has no strengths or likable qualities. At one point, he postures himself as though casually reading a book in the dark in a parking lot. His one trait seems to be that he likes soap operas. There are several references to this as the movie develops, but this never goes anywhere because the fantasy soap opera sequence featuring Geekin’s characters was cut. Watching it on the Deleted Scenes is telling because the actors’ humorous melodramatic soap opera acting isn’t far off from their acting in the actual movie. Watching the director and some of the cast explaining why it was cut is also more engaging than the actual movie as well.

Plot B involves the four other guys who round out the group, specifically the relationship breakdown of another set of BFFs, Austin and Mooney. Trench coat wearing Mooney learns that Austin dated his high school girlfriend (but is unaware that Austin is also into his mother). This and several other parts of Geekin’ serve as evidence of director John Morehead’s Kevin Smith fandom. There’s an expletive-laden invective against Morgan delivered by the feisty Penny (Briana Westmoreland) that could have been ripped straight out of Clerks and then when it comes time for the various groups to attempt resolution, Brown denies the possibility of a threesome a la Chasing Amy. What Morgan devises instead is a pretty unique use of role-playing in cinema; Morgan will GM the feuding parties, including Brown and his confirmed girlfriend Meredith through a special adventure in order to reconcile them. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but the climax of the movie basically is a tabletop session spoiled by the character Wes.

The Good in Geekin’

By far the best part of Geekin’ is the earnest character of Wes, played by Jason Von Stein. Wes is something of a munchkin, plays Gump the Gnome, and is ridiculed by his fellow players, who call him Captain Twink and “Gnome Boy”. He also gets the best lines in the movie as the dorky doofus that the rest of his friends have to keep in check. He drifts off in a diner having fantasies of Gump the Gnome and then uses an RPG book to cover his lap in embarrassment when Morgan intrudes. When Morgan is unsure of whether he can trust Wes with some relationship drama, Wes holds up his hand saying “You have my Arwellian Oath of the Gnome Clan,” before Morgan interrupts his nerdy oath. There’s really not enough Wes in Geekin’, but he’s the best reason to see or get the film.

Besides Wes there are a few other laughs in the film. The first party member is introduced as having been trained by a blind swordsman, his parents murdered in a bandit raid. Saurlin the Wizard’s parents were murdered and then there’s “Gump the Gnome, a powerful warrior in his own right, despite his birth race. His parents were murdered.” That got a chuckle from me. There are attempted jabs at X-Files and Jennifer Garner in Elektra. The non-Wes comedic dialogue tops out with “It’s creepy. It’s like kissing Crispin Glover,” though watching it the second time around, the line “Morgan is a great guy,” is also a contender.

One of the few redeeming things Morgan does in the movie and probably the only touching moment is when he makes a stop animation video of lawn gnomes coming to a truce in an effort to win over the girl he wants to sleep with in order to make Brown jealous. The sole romantic gesture in the movie is undercut by Morgan’s attempt to spark Brown’s jealousy. The gnome sequence is also one of the better uses of music in Geekin’, which at times seems like a showcase for local musicians or band member friends of the director. The soundtrack is one of the better parts of Geekin’ with “Everyone Thinks I’m Special” by The Down Ten a notable standout. However the soundtrack is poorly mixed with the dialogue, creating odd contrived moments in the movie.

The Gaming in Geekin’

While there’s two segments involving comic books, most of the geekery in Geekin’ does center around gaming. It’s a surprise then that the gamers fake-play Xbox. While there are multiple tabletop sessions in Geekin’, most of the plot takes place away from the gaming table at Brown’s house. While there though, a Ravenloft poster haunts the wall and Austin wears his Storm of Chaos T-shirt, while another wears a Nosferatu clan shirt. There’s Mountain Dew, junk food, miniatures in the distance, and a bookshelf bursting with sourcebooks. The gamers do their shopping at The Wizard’s Staff store, a huge gaming store with sparsely populated shelves and two store clerks who dismiss Morgan’s exuberant dancing through the store because he’s finally slept with Meredith as “Gay.”

The RPG that the group plays appears to be called “Farmers and Homesteaders” and takes place in the world of Tir Sidaj. In Farmers and Homesteaders, there’s an attribute called Wits and players make opposed rolls to hit enemies in combat. There’s a repeated joke revolving around playing a “healing bind witch”, which seems to an undesirable yet necessary class or role akin to the treatment of clerics in some circles. When new girl Penny shows up looking for Brown, the players leap at the chance that Penny might play one, vetoing her idea of choosing Archer or Merchant for her Class. In the fictional RPG of Geekin’ there is also a Severed Knight class, which is usually restricted, but which Morgan gives to Wes to win him over, also giving him a “Fury Blade”, a +5 weapon with the Ripping effect. There’s also Blood Wizards, Thieves, Monks of the Third Awareness, and Bard/Scholars.

There are also several classic tabletop RPG gaming dilemnas that the film explores, such as players interrupting the GM, the occasional unpopularity of GMing, taking back actions, and the role or roll of attributes and rules in storytelling. Even as Morgan tries to narrate a wizard’s magical infusion of a map into the PCs minds to help them on their task, munchkin Wes is once again stealing the show by trying to resist the magician’s intrusion into his mind, “I’m rolling to save against magic. What?! I don’t want any wizard messing with my brain, I’m rolling.”

As tedious and excruciating as other parts of the movie can be, in its portrayal of role players Geekin’ is spot on. It does capture what life can be like around the playing table, especially when players and GMs argue. As funny as Wes can be though, every single game session I’ve ever played in was much more entertaining and had more laughs than Geekin’ manages to elicit.

Kaijudo: Creatures Unleashed DVD Releases December 4

DVD Cover with Protagonists from Kaijudo: Creatures UnleashedEven though I have enjoyed playing Wizards of the Coast’s Kaijudo, I had never seen an episode of its tie-in TV show Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters on The Hub network. Shout Factory has changed that with the release of Kaijudo: Creatures Unleashed on DVD. The DVD, which hits store shelves on December 4 for $14.97, includes five episodes with three of them comprising the three-part season opener, “The Natural”. Inside the DVD case is also a single playing card of the Fire Civilization phoenix-like Kenina the Igniter, featuring alternative artwork.

The Show Itself: Kaijudo’s Animation and Premise

At first I found it hard to get past Asian protagonist Ray’s blonde mom, but Ray is quickly revealed to be half-Japanese, half-white. The imagery on screen is far less detailed than the card artwork and dominated by purple shadows, which was another little obstacle for me. The directing though is spot on with grand movements and powerful action. Creatures leap and charge with energy across the screen and the Duel Masters’ summoning movements are imitable. Kaijudo’s main title is reminiscent of the animated X-Men theme, but after watching the DVD’s episodes several times I’ve come to prefer it. The rest of the music on the show and the sound effects are always spot on too. Where Kaijudo really wins me over is its premise: weak nerd utters words of power and watch out bullies! It’s essentially Adam into He-Man from the Masters of the Universe, Billy Batson into Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk. It’s quite an adolescent fantasy and it works. Who doesn’t want a Falcor the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story to come help? For Ray it’s Tatsurion/Bob and I wonder how many children have tried to summon Tatsurion the Unchained to come protect them from a bully now thanks to the TV show.

Typical Duel Action in Kaijudo

Kaijudo’s Characters, Plots, and Comedy

Kaijudo Creatures Unleashed Protagonist Teenager Ray with Gauntlet

Protagonist Ray

Ray (and Kaijudo) won me over partway through the first episode. Ray is tormented at San Campion Middle School by Carny and his stoolies who bully him about his mixed heritage with taunts like “Or what? Half-Japanese, half-whiteboy is going to half-ninja me? Do you have half a black belt? Hey, he’s only half good at math, probably only uses one chopstick too!” Lines like that kept me riveted. There’s a little bit of comedy in every episode with Ray’s friends Gabe and Smellison (Allison) contributing heavily. Gabe’s creature Glu-urrgle occasionally steals the show with one-liner puns. While not as powerful with her kaijudo as Ray is, Allison is full of wit and sass and also has a Dark streak which the show might explore. Will she be tempted by the villains? Lord Choten’s character design is sinister and his awful hairstyle is downright creepy. He is an excellent villain to root against and is supported by the curvaceous Alakshmi, who is designed in a Baroness fashion. While Scott Wolf voices the protagonist Ray, none of the vocal talents really stand out to me, except for Tatsurion’s awesomely powerful voice provided by David Sobolov.

The writing on the show is also solid, gradually introducing more and more elements of the secret society of Kaijudo’s Duel Masters with some slight surprises and twists along the way. After the three-part “Natural” story arc, each episode revolves around one type of kaiju with Om Nom Nom in the fourth episode and Little Hissy in the fifth. “Little Hissy” is probably my favorite episode on the disk, but also strains the suspension of disbelief the most. Tatsurion flips a van and strides down a back alleyway in Michael Bay/Transformers fashion with no one noticing. Perhaps more incredibly the three protagonists later serve after-school detention with absolutely zero adult supervision, not to mention any other students around. The subsequent attack by Razorkinder and Alakshmi is just another day in the life for the teenage Duel Masters, but when the slightly adorable Little Hissy gets captured, things really heat up. The show’s writers pull on the heartstrings and remind the viewer that the Duel Masters are actually playing for serious stakes in their battle against the evil Lord Choten.

Where’s Something to Relate To?

Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow Squeaky from Kaijudo, purple mole creature beast

MIA from the DVD: Squeaky

For true kaiju fans, Kaijudo may be perfect. Instead of a kaiju just being a monster, Ray reveals in the first episode that a Kaiju is actually a “strange beast” and that Kaijudo is literally “the way of the strange beast.” Almost all of Kaijudo’s beasts are indeed quite strange from the twisted puppet Razorkinder to Tatsurion himself (whatever he actually is) to Master Chavez’s Gilaflame the Assaulter. Take the beasts and then mix in technology like rocket launchers or wrist rockets and the theme gets even stranger. Fortunately the hybrid tech is usually kept hidden away. Kaijudo is definitely not Pokémon with its lovable little Pikachu. There’s no Bulbasaur or Psyduck here. The closest Kaijudo seems to come is Squeaky, the koala-like Darkness creature who figures prominently in all of the marketing materials for Kaijudo. Squeaky, or Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow, is one of three kaiju featured on the DVD’s cover, but you won’t find her in the DVD’s episodes! Squeaky is omitted from the DVD because she doesn’t appear in the show until the sixth episode. Instead, would-be fans can catch Squeaky on the two episodes available for free viewing on kaijudo.com.

The Kaijudo Card Game in the Kaijudo Show

From the first invocation of “Rumbling Terrasaur!” to Ray’s last summoning of Bob, the DVD’s episodes stick to its playing card game roots. The first real kaiju on kaiju battle viewers are treated to is a Rumbling Terrasaur against Gilaflame the Assaulter!. The action deviates slightly from the card game; Gilaflame the Assaulter is definitely fast in the animated series, but Gilaflame is Power 5000 in the CCG just like the Rumbling Terrasaur, which should result in both being banished, instead of the Gilaflame “winning”. While the Razorkinder Puppet of Miasma Pit card is weak and uninspiring in play, Razorkinder’s presence on the show is never a laughing matter and spells terror for any who should behold its true face. Likewise while I might pass on the card version of Flametropus, on the TV show the creature is a true behemoth requiring the concerted efforts of all the Duel Masters to bring down. This is in keeping though with Flametropus’ Lava Stomp special ability, effectively doubling its power when it is the only creature in the battle zone and granting it Double Breaker to destroy two mana shields with every hit. All in all, the show is a great compliment to the card game, making the flavor text on the cards much more relevant and increasing my desire to play Kaijudo. Which is better, the TV show or the card game? Definitely the card game, but now I’m also hooked on the TV series.

DVD Bonus Feature: Look at Kaijudo

Kaijudo: Creatures Unleashed also comes with a six minute Bonus Feature “Look at Kaijudo”, which is aptly named. It’s really more of a marketing plug showcasing some of the talent from Hasbro Studios than anything for existing fans of the series. In it Hasbro Studios’ VP of Development, Michael Vogel says that Wizards of the Coast told Hasbro Studios, “We don’t need cards. We don’t need the characters from the old show. We literally need this emotional connection between kids and their creatures. ” Based on those criteria, I would say that Hasbro Studios has really delivered with Kaijudo.

Kirby Krackle’s Jim Demonakos on Gaming, Nerd Rock, and Conventions

Jim Demonakos is the songwriting partner of Kyle Stevens. Put them together and you get the superheroic sounds of Kirby Krackle. For more on Kirby Krackle’s most recent CD, Live in Seattle, be sure to check out the small article and video I did with Kyle back at Comic-Con. As Demonakos revealed when we spoke at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival which Kirby Krackle “headlined” on November 3, he also has a secret identity deep within the world of comic books, or maybe it’s not such a secret. Jim Demonakos is one of the writers of a successful New York Times best-selling graphic novel and the director of the Emerald City Comicon. Demonakos is also a newlywed and shared his thoughts on gaming, Kirby Krackle, and Las Vegas.

Jim Demonakos the Gamer

Box artwork for Zombicide featuring Survivors fending off attacking zombies

Zombie Apocalypse? Demonakos is a Zombicide Fan

CG: How did you get into tabletop gaming?
JD: Well as a kid, especially if we’re talking board games, I was into all of the classics. Played a lot of Monopoly as a kid, Scrabble, Risk, and Chutes and Ladders, all that. As I’ve gotten older I really like a lot of cool tabletop games. For example, I have a biweekly Zombicide game. I backed it on Kickstarter, totally great back, like I was really happy. We’ve been playing it now, like I said, we have a group of five of us and we just do all the campaigns. And there’s a cool Kickstarter-only campaign which is like a super-hard map: you go through five different scenarios.
CG: What level did you back it at?
JD: Just the $100 level or $125. Basically I got the game and all the extra zombies, and then three extra characters which have already come and then there’s another three coming in March. I also backed their other game that’s not out yet. Sedition Wars?
CG: Yeah, Sedition Wars. Mike McVey.
JD: So I’m looking forward to that. I play a lot of Catan and… Carcassone. Also I really like Ticket to Ride. I just tried the Northern Edition and thought that was super cool as well. A lot of boarding gaming fun.
CG: So Zombicide for you has really lived up to the hype?
JD: Yes! Yeah, I’ve actually really enjoyed it. I think it’s because it’s nice that we’re playing all together, so you can try to make a strategy and be like, “Well, why don’t you try to go for the token and we’ll hold off the zombies over here. Why don’t you get in the car? Oh! You have the Molotov, well then gather all these guys here. You’re Slipper so I can get out of the way. Alright!” I think there’s a really fun cooperative element to it instead of just-, not that I don’t understand Carcassone where it’s more versus, but I think that Zombicide for sure, I was extremely happy with my purchase.

Band members Jim Demonakos and Kyle Stevens sitting behind merch booth at comic book convention

Kirby Krackle: Jim Demonakos (L) and Kyle Stevens (R) at Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival

CG: Are you playing with Kyle or are you playing with different friends?
JD: No, I don’t actually like Kyle. It’s a weird thing. [Laughs] Yeah, we get together enough. We see each other enough with Kirby Krackle stuff that usually when it’s social time, it’s hey, let’s go get dinner or let’s see a movie together, but we actually don’t game together. We tried weirdly – just to go into a video game mini-rant – we tried to video game together when DC Universe Online came out. It was such a cluster. Nothing was working right. We were both on our cell phones trying to coordinate. The audio’s not working on our headphones-
CG: Over PS3?
JD: Over PS3. It was horrible. It actually made me return the game. I was like, “Well, I wanted to play this with Kyle, wanted to do something fun, and now I’m just done with this.” But I haven’t really video gamed in a while. I’ll play super casual stuff on my iPad, but it’s more board gaming these days for me.

CG: Did you ever get into miniature wargaming with Privateer Press up there, Wizards-
JD: Yeah, like actually the only one I did for a long time was Heroclix, that was the closest I got to miniatures. I never did D&D Miniatures, Games Workshop, 40k.
CG: And did you ever get into Magic: The Gathering? You’re in Wizards of the Coast territory up there.
JD: You know what’s funny? Literally everybody I know – except for Kyle – plays Magic and I just never did, but not for lack of interest. Listen: Magic, just like any other hobby is expensive, you’re going to spend money and do your decks. I always just spend all my money on comics. As a kid that was my thing. I thought Magic was totally neat, I just never did it. I was just happy to keep buying more Fantastic Four comics and keep being on that path.

Songwriting for Kirby Krackle

CG: Now you’re obviously the silent half of Kirby Krackle.
JD: Yeah, I’m the Bernie Taupin to his Elton John.
CG: Ok. So do you guys actually work collaboratively or you actually write most of the songs?
JD: So I write the songs with Kyle. Kyle writes the music and I help write the lyrics along with Kyle. So I write. That’s pretty much what I do; I’m a writer. I released my first graphic novel earlier this year. I’m totally OK with not being on stage. I don’t pretend I’m a musician. I’m a lyricist and I’m totally cool with that. It’s my job in the band and I love it.

CG: Do you start singing your owns songs while you’re doing tours, like going “Up Up Down Down B A Select…”?
JD: I will say occasionally I do, but I like to sing. I’m an in-the-shower, in-the-car kind of singer. I’m not very good. I like karaoke a lot because it’s ok if you’re terrible, because I am. Karaoke’s a lot of fun. I do occasionally get one of my own songs stuck in my head. It’s like, “This is weirdly annoying because I’m the one that wrote it and yet it’s really catchy.” For example, “Up, Up, Down, Down”. Especially when we’re at conventions because we talk about it a lot, like “Going Home” gets stuck in my head.
CG: Ok, which is about leaving conventions.
JD: Yeah and so those are a couple that will just pop in my head. And also if someone says something that’s similar to a lyric, because you know our stuff is pretty broad, so sometimes someone will say something and it’ll just get me on the track of one of our songs and then that’s stuck in my head for a little while until something else kicks it out.


CG: If you’re doing a “Vault 101”, have you both played Fallout 3.
JD: Yes, totally. We’re both super into the game and that’s how that came about. When we both get excited about something it makes the song-, like we’re both big Green Lantern fans, that’s how we wrote “Ring Capacity”. There’s occasions where I’ll be a bigger fan of something or he’ll be a bigger fan. The one thing I can think of offhand is “Take it From Me.” I’m a huge Megaman fan and he’s only casually played, so when we wrote the song, I was a little more driving because I was like “There’s these robots, there’s these things.” And he’s like, “Cool, I know all that because I’ve played it.” But he doesn’t have the sort of depth because it’s not a game he was super into and then the flip side will be true as well. We’ll go to write something else and he’ll be the more knowledgeable one and I’ll be familiar enough that I can contribute, but not as much where I get those deep references.
CG: What was your favorite Mega Man power?
JD: I always thought that Cut Man was pretty cool because he had the open blades. Weirdly I always thought that Bubble Man was fun-, I guess it technically was Water Man depending on how it was, but the bubbles would do more damage because you’d actually shoot out more than one bubble. Like a Mega Blaster, you’d only have one shot, obviously over and over, while this one, you could do a little more damage and that was good.

Guitarist and singer Kyle Stevens playing live performance as Kirby Krackle in Las Vegas library

Kyle Stevens Performing Live

CG: Does Kyle handle all of the musical arrangements?
JD: Yes, that’s all Kyle. I do feedback as in, “I don’t like how this sounds.” I use the vocabulary that I know like, “Listen: I want it to sound more dun-dun-dun-DUN, does that make sense?” And he’ll be like, “I get what you’re saying.” Because I don’t have the right knowledge to go like “Can you make that a D Minor? Or an A or whatever.” I’m like, “There’s a certain feel to it. I want it to feel like this.” And I’ll try to express it, but generally 99 times out of a 100, he’ll be like “This is what we’re working on arrangement wise.” There’s very few times where we’ve had a real disagreement of how much or how little we like something. It works out well.
CG: Does he record the drums himself?
JD: No, no. So he’s guitar and vocals, we have a drummer, a bassist, another guitar, and keyboards.
CG: I have never seen these other people.
JD: Correct. Not here. If you come up to Seattle for Kracklefest we have a band. Here PJ’s doing drums for us, so you’ll get a White Stripes-
CG: PJ Perez? [A Las Vegas A&E weekly newspaper contributor, comic book writer/artist, occasional scenester, and apparently a drummer.]
JD: Yep! So you guys will get a White Stripes situation which makes PJ Meg but that’s ok, that’s fine. That makes Kyle Jack.

Emerald City Comicon and The Silence of Our Friends

CG: It also seems that you guys have a pattern built up with conventions. You’re up in the Seattle area, so you go to Emerald City, San Diego… now you’ve been to Vegas three times?
JD: This is our third time, yep. Our standard conventions, what we’ll do: we always go to Calgary and we always go to Toronto. What we tend to do is do every other year on other shows, so for example we did C2E2 a couple of years ago in Chicago and so we’ll do it again next year. We skipped New York, but we did it last year, and we’ll probably do it next year. That’s one of the things where we’re just figuring out what to do. We can only afford to do so many conventions, so we go to ones that we have a good audience at and we have something to bring back, but we’re always open to trying new shows. Like we did Phoenix [Comicon] years ago…
CG: And that show’s been growing and growing.
JD: Yep and so the guy who runs it asked if we’d be interested in coming out in 2013 and we said yes, so we’re probably going to Phoenix. There’s definitely our standards, the few you mentioned and then there’s everyone else, which we’ll figure out.
CG: Vegas has to be the smallest. I mean this year this is actually starting to look slightly like a comic book convention.
JD: Yeah, there’s dealers outside, there’s an artist’s alley, and a good crowd. No, I agree. And you guys just launched a show here, the Las Vegas Comic Expo.
CG: So you guys are always checking. Who’s scouring?
JD: It’s me, because I-, so I run – I don’t know if you know – Emerald City Comicon. That’s my convention.
CG: No, I didn’t.
JD: That’s my job, is that. Part of my job is awareness of conventions around the country. Knowing about the Vegas show was just one more [show]. This is super cool. And we came and actually checked it out. Coincidentally that show was going on.
CG: Back in September?
JD: End of September, because I was here for two days, because I got married in Vegas last month. It just happened that the Comic Expo was also happening. So yeah, I’m always pretty aware about shows and their ins and outs.
CG: But at the same time you’re writing a bunch of songs.
JD: Yeah, it’s a great creative outlet, like I mentioned before, I wrote a graphic novel.


CG: Let’s talk about the graphic novel!
JD: It came out in January. It was totally a great experience. We spent four weeks on the New York Times best seller list, which I thought was great for a first time thing. It’s called The Silence of Our Friends and takes place in 1960s Texas. It’s about two families struggling with a racial divide going on during a pretty heavy time during the Civil Rights movement. It follows these families at some real events that happened at Texas Southern University.
CG: And where are you from?
JD: Seattle. But my buddy that I cowrote the book with, he grew up in Texas, so it’s a fictional autobiography, because a lot of the stuff is from what he remembered as a kid and we interviewed his dad about events that happened during that time as well, so a lot of research. And Nate Powell – he won an Eisner for Best Graphic Novel a couple of years ago – illustrated it.

CG: When you’re here though at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival, this is almost nothing, right?
JD: This is a lot of fun! We have a great time here. Like here I’m an exhibitor, there’s two different mentalities. It doesn’t matter the scale of the show; if you’re not running it, then it’s not your problem. Here, it’s like “Cool. Tell us where to be! Here’s our table. I’m going to just sit around and talk to people about music.” I’m 100 percent cool with that.

CG: Are you a Marvel guy or DC?
JD: I would say I grew up a Marvel guy. I would say Marvel. There’s DC books that I love, like Green Lantern and Batman and a couple others, but I’m pretty much a Marvel dude.
CG: Well, you probably started following writers now, where you like the writer.
JD:Yeah, for sure. It doesn’t matter what they’re working on, I’ll check it out. Sometimes I don’t like it, but sometimes I do, depending on what it is. I definitely follow a lot of writers.

CG: You’re in the industry in a different area-
JD: I also own four comic book stores as well.
CG: Ok. How much do you let that affect Kirby Krackle?
JD: Not a lot, aside from just familiarity with comics, which is what a lot of our songs are about. We don’t really mix, I guess. I know a bunch of professionals from working Emerald City, some of them know Kirby Krackle and like it, some don’t care. They’re kind of, for me, two separate worlds.

CG: Do you have plans to do another graphic novel?
JD: Not offhand. I think for right now I’m really keeping busy with all the other stuff I’m working on. We’re working on a new album, so that’s taking up a lot of writing time. Again, in terms of creating the graphic novel, that was definitely something I enjoyed. I haven’t found inspiration enough of something that I want to do for another graphic novel, if that makes sense. When I have a story to tell, that’s a format that I’m very happy with.

CG: So do you think for this coming Comic-Con in 2013 you’ll have a new album yet by then?
JD: Probably. Our goal right now is maybe end of April, but we’ll see, but by July, we think so. By July.

2012 Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction at BoardGameGeek

European city state on cover of AEG board game Dominare

One of AEG’s 11 Donated Listings for the Auction: Dominare

From November 1 to November 18 BoardGameGeek.com is hosting a charity auction to benefit the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. The fund exists in memory of Jack Vasel, the infant son of game guru Tom Vasel, who passed away in January, 2011. Famous for more than 1,200 game reviews, Tom Vasel heads Dice Tower and is the Executive Editor for Game Salute News. When his son passed away, the gaming community rallied around Tom Vasel and his family to help cover medical expenses. Vasel was so touched by the generosity of the gaming community that he started the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund to help others in the gaming community faced with similar circumstances.

There were 346 board games, RPGs, and card games up on offer at the auction Monday afternoon according to Vasel with many titles from AEG and R&R Games, Kickstarter-only gaming components and add-ons, signed copies of games, and even more personalized offers. The charity auction is the main method of fundraising for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund with other funds coming from direct donations to the charity and the proceeds from the live auction at Dice Tower Con, held in Orlando every July beginning this year. Vasel estimates that over $20,000 was raised in the last auction. Past recipients of the charity’s funds include a family that experienced a home fire, one coping with cancer, and one dealing with the death of a family member. One criterion for the fund’s charity is that the life crisis impacting the gamer is of a traumatic nature, while another is that the source of the problem is external and isn’t due to the gamer himself or herself, such as poor investments or gambling addiction. Due to privacy concerns, Vasel cannot discuss the individual circumstances of each family, but last year $15,000 from the fund was spent on four families.

More on Tom Vasel

Marvel Bowman Hawkeye nocking an arrow on card art for Marvel Legendary

Art from Vasel’s New Favorite: Marvel Legendary

Vasel however is very vocal in which games he enjoys, though he cannot always keep them himself. Vasel will probably keep less than a dozen games from 2012 simply because he does not have enough room in his home in Homestead, Florida to store all of the titles he’s enjoyed. Definite keepers from 2012 for Vasel include Mage Wars, Suburbia, Mice and Mystics, Seasons, Masters of Commerce, First and Goal, and newcomer Marvel Legendary. When asked if there had been any new game he had “immensely” enjoyed playing recently, Vasel picked Marvel Legendary, the deck-building card game set in the Marvel Universe from Upper Deck Entertainment which will hit store shelves November 13. At a recent gaming event Vasel restricted himself to games he had already played before, because his friends aren’t always interested in playing a new game every time. As a prolific reviewer, Vasel gets most games for free, but did purchase Gale Force 9’s Spartacus because he knew his podcast and Youtube followers would want a review of the game. While Vasel liked aspects of the game, it did not make the cut, and will be moving on for another gamer to enjoy.

Contributors

Super fans of print and play (PnP) games will not want to miss Jim Flemming’s auction listing. Flemming is offering the top five bidders constructed versions of the games which end users usually print out themselves. Flemming expects each game to possibly take up to two weeks of construction. For Flemming it goes a bit deeper than a desire to simply help out a fellow gamer; Flemming is a past recipient of Jack Vasel Memorial Fund charity. A fan of Dice Tower who found himself in dire straits both medically and financially, Flemming contacted the Memorial Fund, but assumed that his “situation was not serious enough to warrant assistance”. The charity’s board thought otherwise and came to his aid. Times are still hard for Flemming and his hopes of being able to pay back the charity in kind with donations of prized games from his own collection have not materialized; Flemming has sold the games just to make ends meet. Wanting to do his part though, he has turned past success at crafting PnP games for himself into an asset for others and describes himself as “overwhelmed” by the response he has received on BoardGameGeek. As of November 6, Flemming’s unique contribution is set to bring in at least $600 for the fund.

“I donate my game, someone else donates to the charity fund (and receives the game) and we both gain some benefit from our contribution…And the game gets played for sure. And that’s pretty important too.”

– Greg Taylor

Greg Taylor of Bellevue, Washington is another contributor. For Taylor it was a choice between donating his seldom-played board games to the children’s hospital outreach program Child’s Play in Seattle or the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction. Child’s Play’s focus on handheld games is ultimately why Taylor went with the Jack Vasel Fund, with Taylor offering seven listings, including Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne: The City, and Nuns on the Run. Taylor, a 12 year veteran video game programmer, finds the “conciseness and tightness of the designs in board games” to be a good influence on his A.I. and gameplay design. Like many of the other contributors he has listened to Dice Tower podcasts and watched Youtube reviews of games. Ultimately for Taylor, a first time donator to the charity auction, it’s a win-win situation. As he says, “I donate my game, someone else donates to the charity fund (and receives the game) and we both gain some benefit from our contribution…And the game gets played for sure. And that’s pretty important too.”

IT professionals have good representation on BoardGameGeek and in the charity auction with Chris Heuer of Eagan, Michigan putting up 13 items. Heuer is a software engineer and has been involved in both the initial auction to help the Vasel family with its crisis and with subsequent game donations to the 2011 Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction. Heuer’s listings are among the first on the BGG geeklist thread because he was “super ready” to help this year. Heuer points to the significant international community found on BoardGameGeek as the reason he is including free worldwide shipping on his auctions, in hopes of seeing even higher bids on some of his items, to provide even more help to those who need it.

The Monster Alphabet by Darren J. Gendron and O. Abnormal

Four shadowy monsters on cover of The Monster Alphabet including Scottish Cu Sith, Tanuki, Varana, and Ibong AdarnaFor much the same reasons as Krisztianna’s Creatures of Legend coloring book, I recommend Darren J. Gendron’s The Monster Alphabet to any gamer parent or anyone who would like to give a gamer mom or dad a perfect dose of 26 monsters for them to share with their own little monster. The Monster Alphabet is affordable at $12, features wonderful ominous illustrations by Obsidian Abnormal, and packs in a lot of information on every page.

Each page has one of the letters of the alphabet, a creature whose name begins with that letter, and a little rhyme that Gendron came up for the monster. Gendron also provides a pronunciation guide, the ethnic origin of the myth or legend the creature is drawn from, and Fun Facts about the creature. As an adult fan of mythology some of the Fun Facts were revelations. Did you know that the myth that Hernán Cortés was mistaken by the Aztecs for Quetzalcoatl was actually spread by Cortés himself? How is your pronunciation of Cù Sìth (coo shee)? Despite reading mentions of Ourboros motifs in ancient artwork elsewhere (and collecting a Circle Orboros army for Privateer Press’s Hordes), I was ignorant of just what an Ourboros is, a serpent eating its own tale, or as Gendron glosses, “He who eats the tail.” The Monster Alphabet also has another Ourboros in the form of the more familiar Norse World Serpent Jörmungandr for J. I was also introduced to the lightning cat Raiju, the Hindu simian Vanara, and the French Melusine which is similar to a freshwater naiad. The Aztecs supply both the Q and the X, the serpentine Quetzalcoatl and the Xiuhcoatl, with the Chinese providing the avian Zhu Que.

Creepy Japanese Tanuki from the Monster Alphabet drawn by Obsidian AbnormalObsidian Abnormal’s illustrates with menacing figures who retain a cute edge, which is why I think the book will be perfect for most gamer parents who are a bit darker or edgier themselves. The only objectionable image that would give me second thoughts about buying The Monster Alphabet for a school or classroom library is the Melusine’s topless mermaid form. Her breasts are concealed by her golden locks, but such an illustration can be quite distracting and disruptive in a classroom environment. Otherwise I doubt that most conservative parents would really object to the book in this day and age.

Menacing Obsidian Abnormal cartoon illustration of French monster Melusine resembling mermaid with fish tail

Currently The Monster Alphabet is exclusively available over at Swag Shark, but this charming book may eventually find wider distribution.

Game On with Nerd Punk Band 3d6

Band logo for nerd punk rockers 3d6 with text 3d6

I first heard 3d6 on my friends’ podcast, the GUBAR Podcast, and then saw them at a backyard show and was blown away by their catchy melodies and great gaming lyrics. Damage is the first album from the Las Vegas locals, which I highly recommend. 3d6 recently played the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival and introduced a great new song about saving throws, “Save Does Not End”, which bodes well for their forthcoming follow-up album. For more news on it and upcoming shows, check out their website at 3d6band.com. 3d6 is David Thomas, Anthony Bassett, and Rudy Thomas.

CG: First, you have a new lead singer since recording Damage, but he’s not really new to you guys. Who do we have in place of Jimmy?
Anthony: We moved things around quite a bit. Dave is our singer now, in addition to being our guitar player. I’m our former drummer and now our bass player. Our new member is Rudy, David’s brother, who is now our drummer.

CG: So, your second song on Damage, if you had to pick one who would it be? Queen Amidala, Princess Leia, Seven of Nine, Lara Croft, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “the blue chick from Avatar“, Jessica Rabbit, Mystique, She-Hulk, Arwen, Legolas, Starbuck, Scully, Olivia from Fringe, Marge, Leela, Lois, or Cheetara?
David: For me, I think I’m gonna have to go with Mystique and Leela. But Jessica Rabbit and the Avatar chick are good ones too. Mystique just lets it all hang out but Leela is independent and will probably dominate you in the bedroom. Blue girls and one-eyed alien chicks.
Anthony: Though Princess Leia was my “first”, I’m going to have to say Seven of Nine. A close second would be the combined Jessica Rabbit and Arwen. I try not to fantasize only about individual women, if I can help it. What’s that the Vulcans say? “Infinite diversity in infinite combination?”
Rudy: She Hulk looks fun.
CG: Now which one “is the shit”?
Anthony: Caprica 6 from Battlestar Galactica, obviously.

A Band of Gamers

Nerd Punk Musicians David Thomas and Anthony Bassett of band 3d6 playing guitar and bass at Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival

Guitarist David Thomas and Bassist Anthony Bassett

CG: How did you guys get into tabletop gaming?
David: Watching movies and playing fantasy games all my life made me want to try D&D when I got older, but I didn’t want to admit it to anybody. But everyone has played Monopoly and such, you just have to find the right people so that you can enjoy it together. I personally love cooperative tabletop games. Going head-to-head can get nuts. Like that B.S.G. game where everybody just lies to each other.
Anthony: I had been playing board games since childhood, but I started playing table-top RPGs in college when I fell in with…that crowd. My first was a Star Wars RPG, in which I played an Ewok Crime Lord named Jingy. When Dave and Jimmy and I were in a Weezer cover band together, we fired up our own D&D game, and we just kept going.
Rudy: Older nerds showed me the way. Nerdism is something that is passed down.
CG: What do you guys play now?
David: I really love to play some Arkham Horror. Heroclix was cool too but I honestly only played it once. I would still love to get some more D&D games going! 4th edition!
Anthony: It’s hard to get everyone together for ongoing campaigns, but we had a nice D&D game going for awhile. We’ve also spoken of firing up a game of Dragon Age table-top RPG. And no, NOT because the base roll is 3d6, but that is rather awesome. Due to scheduling restrictions, we generally find ourselves playing board games, like those D&D dungeon crawl games (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of I-Shart-Alot, etc.) and other co-op, multi-player games. My shelf looks like a Fantasy Flight catalog. I also have a pretty good collection of Heroclix.
Rudy: Arkham Horror, a cool pirate game called Sword and Skull, and D&D games.
CG: Does the band game as a group ever?
Anthony: Yes. But it’s hard to get everyone together that often. When we do manage to find a time to get all of us in the same place, we usually end up using that time for practice, writing, or recording. But it certainly does still happen!

3d6 Bassist Anthony Bassett in a red box D&D shirt holding tshirt that reads don't eat poop and CD of album Damage

Don’t Eat Poop: Bassist Anthony Bassett Shows 3d6 Merch at Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival

CG: What’s the story with “Ranger”? Whose character was that?

Anthony: “Ranger” is about Grikthor Blackfoot, Dave’s character that only got to level 3 or something like that. Right around when he graduated from college, Dave ended up moving out to California with family for a few months, and it was hard on the party, so we thought it best to kill him off. Anthony was the Dungeon Master at the time and he weaved our sadness into that series of game events. Jimmy was so moved and inspired by it that he turned the epic story into lyrics, and had Anthony set it to music. It was a sad day, but an honorable way to die.

The Musical Side of 3d6

CG: Musically what are your influences?
Dave: I listen to a lot of different music, but one of my all time favorites is Mars Volta. I say it so much it bothers people. When it comes to 3d6, I feel like my interests in The Dead Milkmen, Green Jello, The Descendents, old Pennywise and Offspring start to come out. For some songs, I just think about what I was writing when I first started learning guitar. It was much more primal and power-chord based. But I also love technical stuff, hip hop and metal. Frank Zappa, Eyedea & Abilities, Black Dahlia Murder…I could go on for days.
Anthony: I grew up playing violin, and ended up going to school for music, so I listen to a lot of the more academic stuff like classical and jazz. I also really love metal and funk. But I think in 3d6, my love of bands like Weezer, Offspring, and Green Day comes out most clearly. You can tell I was a child of the 90s.
Rudy: I see things and think about what they sound like.

CG: Which is your favorite 3d6 song?
David: “I’m A Nerd” because the lyrics are so true. I can sing that song any night and mean it.
Anthony: I want to say “Robot Overlords”, but I’m also extremely proud of a couple of our new songs that have yet to be played in public. You’ll have to wait to see which ones I mean. I’ve said too much already…
Rudy: Our new song, “I Killed A Dragon (And You Don’t Even Care).”

CG: I’ve only seen you at your backyard show and at the library of all places, but do you guys play out with other punk rock bands at bars and regular shows?
Anthony: We’ve played with a variety of bands from all over. We enjoy playing at the Double Down Saloon, and the Cheyenne Saloon has always been there for us, too. We particularly like teaming up with Geezus Cryst & Free Beer, as well as Time Crashers. Those guys have a sense of humor. Please check them out immediately. We also play a lot with our friends, .Bipolar, but they are pretty damn metal.

Nerd Punk Rocker Rudy Thomas Playing Ludwig Drums at Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival

Drummer and New Addition to 3d6 Rudy Thomas

CG: Who are you aware of out there that also has a real gaming focus. There’s the Double Clicks with whom you’ve played before, but anyone else?
Anthony: We loved playing with The Doubleclicks, and we also recently played with The Protomen – who have a brilliant Mega Man-themed rock opera thing going on. But other than that, we haven’t really seen many other bands who sing about gaming. Most of the time, there will be one or two members from one of the other punk bands who will come up and say that they play D&D or Skyrim but a lot of people are afraid to admit their nerdy interests. We did just play with Kirby Krackle, however, and those guys are legit nerds.

CG: Any plans for a follow-up to Damage? What are your plans for the future?
Anthony: We are almost finished recording our second album, “Space Fapping”. We definitely want to do some more music videos, but most of all, we would like to play at PAX, and/or Nerdapalooza, or things like that. It can be hard to get the nerd fan-base to leave their computer chairs and gaming tables, so we gotta work our way to where they already gather.