Monday, June 22, 2015

For Immediate Release - 2015 San Diego Comic-Con

Rob Hanes Adventures #0 to Debut at 2015 San Diego Comic-Con

Visit WCG Comics at Booth #K1 in the Small Press Area


Following the May 15 announcement that the next issue of the long-running comic-book indie series Rob Hanes Adventures will feature a “soft re-boot” with a special “zero” issue, WCG Comics has confirmed that the issue will debut at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, scheduled July 9-12, 2015.

Publisher-writer-artist Randy Reynaldo, under his WCG Comics imprint, will be at exhibitor’s booth #K1 in the Small Press Area (off aisle 1400—see maps below). WCG has been a regular fixture at Comic-Con, with this year’s show marking WCG’s 12th consecutive appearance as an exhibitor and 18th overall since the founding of the Small Press Area in 1993.

While the new issue 0 provides new readers with a fresh entry point for the series, Reynaldo noted that every issue in the series is self-contained and can be enjoyed without prior knowledge of the series. Fifteen issues of the series have been published to date as well as two trade paperback collections of earlier material, and all remain in print and available for purchase.

In addition to the new issue, the series’ full back catalog will be available in its entirety for $45 or in specially-priced value packs of four issues. Free give-aways will also be available with every purchase.

Inspired by the classic adventure comic strips like Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates and Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer but set in the modern day—with dashes of light-hearted humor reminiscent of Will Eisner's Spirit—readers and fans alike have lauded Rob Hanes Adventures for carrying on the spirit of the classic adventure strip genre for modern day audiences. Rob Hanes Adventures has been reviewed, spotlighted and featured in numerous respected comics industry news publications and websites, including the Comics Buyer’s Guide, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, and Bleeding Cool. The series also was featured at wired.com and included in 1000 Comic Books You Must Read by Tony Isabella (Krause Publications, 2009). The year 2014 marked WCG’s twentieth anniversary as a comic-book publisher.

Click here for the May 4 press release announcing Rob Hanes Adventures #0 and to see sample pages.

The permanent link for this press release is http://wcgcomics.blogspot.com/2015/06/2015SDCC.html


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Where to find the WCG Comics booth at the San Diego Comic-Con (Booth K1):

Below is a map to the full floor, followed by a closeup map.

  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Look Back: Electric Dreams

This is the second in a series of posts about some of my favorite films.

As some of my closest friends know, one of my most idiosyncratic “favorite films” is a little known romantic comedy/”date movie” from 1984 called Electric Dreams. The movie features the near film debuts of actors Lenny von Dohlen (later best known for a small recurring role in the Twin Peaks television show and its follow up film, as well as the movie Home Alone 3) and the lovely Virginia Madsen. Its tagline—a love story about a boy, a girl, and a computer—says it all. (Bud Cort voiced the computer.)

Underscoring the obscurity of this film is the fact that it’s never even been available on DVD (aside from non-U.S. formats), let alone BluRay. Electric Dreams was one of my earliest VHS purchases, bought used from a video store at a time before VHS tapes were relatively affordable. For years I viewed that tape multiple times and had the foresight a few years ago to transfer it onto a recordable DVD before the VHS copy finally gave out (the picture was already quite faded – but I’ve since discovered the film available in its entirety on YouTube!).

Though in many ways a product of the ‘80s—with a score by synth disco and electronic dance music impressario Giorgio Moroder and songs featuring the likes of Boy George and Jeff Lynne—the concept was actually very much ahead of its time.




Set in San Francisco, von Dohlen plays Miles, a milquetoast architect (who the actor has said he partly modeled on Cary Grant’s character in the screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby), while Madsen plays a cellist named Madeline who has just joined a classical symphony orchestra and becomes the object of Miles’ attention when she moves into the apartment above his own. After Miles purchases a computer to help organize his life and to computer-model an earthquake-resistant brick he’s designing, the PC comes to life through a convergence of mishaps after it is connected to the nascent internet via a phone modem, involving an overloaded information dump and strategically spilled champagne on the motherboard. (This was technically prior to the Internet, though the film takes pains to show how there was already a lot of connectivity at the financial services level.)

Through television, the computer soon learns to speak—and to impress Madeline, Miles asks the computer to compose a song for her. However, the computer (who we later learn is named Edgar) soon falls in love with Madeline itself and becomes increasingly jealous of Miles. Madeline, of course, is unaware of any of this, but in the climactic scene of the film, Edgar tries to ruin Miles’ life by attacking him through the electronic networks, by cancelling his credit cards and reporting him as a wanted felon in the system.

At the time of its release, the film certainly stretched credibility since there was no World Wide Web or Internet yet, and modem communication networks were very much in their infancy. Nevertheless, the film in retrospect is quite prescient in predicting the potential of using the communications grid to hijack identities and hack the system.


Having said that, the film is hardly intended to be a cautionary tale—at its heart, it’s a simple romantic comedy involving a love triangle in which one of the parties happens to be a computer. (A relatively recent interview with the screenwriter said that it was basically a re-tooling of the classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac.)

The film’s director was a successful early music video director and the movie definitely reflects that sensibility. Nevertheless, having re-watched the movie again recently, the film’s camera work, edit cuts and montage sequences never overwhelm the story and, in fact, serve the story well. Aside from the music, it helps too that the film was not too immersed in trendy ‘80s fashions, so it doesn’t look or feel too dated. I’m happy to say, that the movie actually still holds up well.

Frankly, the main reason I enjoyed this film was because I found it very romantic—in fact, I used to watch it when I felt a bit down in my love life and needed cheering up. The filmmakers use San Francisco effectively as the backdrop, giving the movie some character and a strong sense of place. (Ironically, with the exception of some exterior sequences, the film was mostly filmed in Great Britain.) Even for its time—and especially in today’s era of self-awareness and snarkiness—the characters and their story project a sweetness and innocence you rarely find in films these days, and the two leads have great chemistry as two lonely young singles who not yet cynical or too experienced in love; and actor Bud Cort brings the computer to animated life with voicework that makes the character, by turns, funny, scary and threatening; but also childlike in trying to deal with its emotions and understanding the concept of love. At the end of the film, Edgar the computer’s epiphany about the meaning of love gives the film its heart.

Anyway, it’s a film that came into my life at the right moment and remained a touchstone for me for many years as a young single.

Postscript: In doing some research into the movie, I was glad to come across some interviews that note that both lead actors continued to have happy memories making the film. It was a kick to see other like-minded people on Amazon asking the powers-that-be to release it on DVD.

Related links:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Field of Dreams

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Last year, my son started playing Little League at age 8. As someone who played a lot of sandlot as a kid, it was a happy surprise for me. Though like any good dad I had purchased a glove for him and his sister (when she was younger), and periodically took them out for catches, they were usually ready to pack it in after about five minutes. But in the summer of 2013, while playing catch with him one day, I noticed he suddenly had an arm. Later that fall, out of left field (ha ha), he told me he wanted to try Little League that spring.

 photo 47a5dd31b3127cce9854a6df4d7800000035108AZOGLlk3aNg_zpsaazvvl3y.jpgUnsure of how serious he was since he hadn’t ever really played the game (nor did he watch it), I put off paying registration as long as I could. Fortunately, right before the deadline, our local high school held a series of clinics for kids. I bought him some cleats and, the night before the first clinic, bought him a bat and tossed him some pitches for his first batting lessons. After the first clinic, when I asked how he liked it, he said enthusiastically, “It was great!” So it was on!

Given he came from nothing (versus some of his teammates who started as young as 4 or younger), it’s not with a little bit of pride that I say that the kid turned out to be a bit of a natural. His coaches this year and last have called him a “coach’s dream”—he’s focused, he listens, plays smart (he learned the importance of coverage early on), and makes adjustments based on the feedback he gets. Both seasons, he’s been a dependable utility player since the coaches knew they could put him anywhere and depend on him. He’s also a bit of a playmaker—as catcher, he’s thrown out runners trying to steal second and third (the only one to do that on his team), and he’s made several plays at the plate on his own and in concert with teammates; he’s fielded tough ground balls at third (making an accurate long throw); and as centerfielder made a few catches, including one on a dive. His pitching is a work in progress, but he did hold a team to no runs one inning due to great defense by him and his team.

While he needs to be more aggressive at the plate, he actually has a batting average of over .400 (he gets walked a lot, which says much about his discipline at the plate) and an on base percentage (OBP) of .500!



A little over a week ago, my son’s Little League team—the Minor Yankees—clinched first place for the regular season with one game still remaining, earning a bye the first round of the playoffs. Believe me, all the teams look solid and the game results show that nearly every team can beat another on any given day. Having said that, my son’s team earned first place in the standings pretty handily, with a 12-3 record for a winning percentage of .800. The second place team managed 9 wins and a .695 winning percentage. But it's now a clean slate as they head into playoffs and all teams have really improved their play over the season.

What’s been amazing in the last games of the season, however, is how solid the team has become defensively—the kids executed great plays in the infield, and no one in the outfield let a ball get past them and got it back into the infield quickly—meaning that nearly all hard hit balls that went into the outfield were kept to only a single. That’s quite impressive at this level of play.

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Along the way, I also re-discovered my love of baseball. While I played a lot of sandlot baseball (and football) as a kid, and a bit with friends after college, I’ve never watched a lot of sports. Watching my son play—and realizing that watching a lot of baseball growing up helped improve my play, I’ve gotten back into baseball. I help out quite a bit in practices, always ready with cleats and my glove, and it’s fun to know I still play pretty well (though I certainly feel it more afterwards) and know enough to be able to help coach the kids.

As I draw in the evenings, I often have the Major League Baseball network on in the background. Though I certainly feel I grew up during a great time to be a baseball fan (I lived in New York in the ‘70s when the Yanks fielded the likes of Reggie Jackson and Thurmon Munson), I’m amazed at the athleticism of today’s players—given the amount of money players today are paid, I’m sure their training and modern sports science have upped the skill level. Anyway, it certainly has been a great bonding experience for my son and me.

Below are additional shots of my son in action, scroll down. For additional pics, see Little League Gallery 1 and Gallery 2.


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Monday, May 4, 2015


For Immediate Release

Rob Hanes Adventures Returns to Basics with “Zero Issue”


Cartoonist Randy Reynaldo, writer-artist of the long-running indy comic-book Rob Hanes Adventures, announced that the next issue of the globetrotting adventure series will be a “zero issue” that brings the character back to its roots and serves as a fresh entry point for new readers. Rob Hanes Adventures #0 is slated for release in summer 2015, with a specific release date to be announced.

Issue 0 follows Rob Hanes Adventures #15, published in 2014, which marked the twentieth anniversary of Reynaldo’s publishing imprint, WCG Comics. WCG first published the series in comic-book format in 1994 as Adventure Strip Digest. (The series was re-launched in 2000 as Rob Hanes Adventures.)

"Little has been shown about how Rob started at Justice International or first met some of the key characters in the series,” Reynaldo added. “This is a chance to fill in some of those blanks and bring in new readers.”

The new stories will reveal Rob’s family background, the events that led to his joining Justice International (or JI), some of his early challenges as a JI agent, and re-introduce some key characters, including villains and love interests.

Rob Hanes Adventures follows the exploits of a young globetrotting adventurer and troubleshooter who works for worldwide Justice International, a private investigation, security and mercenary agency. Set in the modern day, the long-running indie series follows in the tradition of classic adventure comic strips like Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates and Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer — with dashes of light-hearted humor reminiscent of Will Eisner's Spirit.

Reynaldo added that there is a strong possibility that issue 0 would be followed by issue ½ and, perhaps, issue ¾, to cover stories he wants to tell that fill in the gaps from the character’s early days as a private investigator and globetrotting troubleshooter. Reynaldo stressed, however, that this is not a complete “re-boot”—the series will eventually resume its regular numbering and all prior continuity, for the most part, remains in place. Nevertheless, Reynaldo said that some of the early stories and characters may be slightly tweaked in what he describes to be a “soft” re-boot.

All issues of Rob Hanes Adventures are self-contained, so readers always have the ability to jump in with any issue. However, Reynaldo recognizes that some people seeing an “issue 15” on the cover might feel a bit reluctant to try out a new series and hopes the planned “issue 0” will appeal to new readers.

“Given the anniversary and how long the series has been running, I thought it was a good time to re-introduce the series to new readers and get back to roots,” said Reynaldo. “It will also be a nice re-fresh and change of direction for myself.”

About the series:

To date, 15 issues of Rob Hanes Adventures and two trade paperback collections of earlier work—Rob Hanes Adventures, Vol. 0 and the Rob Hanes Archives—have been released and remain in print. Over its run, Rob Hanes Adventures has been reviewed, spotlighted and featured in numerous respected comics industry news publications and websites, including the Comics Buyer’s Guide, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, and Bleeding Cool. The series also was featured at wired.com and included in 1000 Comic Books You Must Read by Tony Isabella (Krause Publications, 2009). The year 2014 marked WCG’s twentieth anniversary as a comic-book publisher.

For more information, visit wcgcomics.com or facebook.com/rhadventures.

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The permanent link for this press release is http://wcgcomics.blogspot.com/2015/05/issue0.html

Below are sample pages (without word balloons) from Rob Hanes Adventures #0:





 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

There and Back Again: The Grand Canyon


Click on any of the images below to see them full size.

When I was growing up, my parents made it a point to take a summer vacation somewhere around the country every year, but one place we never made it to was the Grand Canyon. I’m glad to say that I finally made it to this must-see national park with my own family (including my brother).

We had a terrific trip. Although it’s no doubt a cliché, words and photos do little justice to the experience of actually being at the Grand Canyon. Viewing it in person is absolutely breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

We opted to take a popular Grand Canyon Railway package, which starts in Williams, Arizona, a town that touts itself as “the last town to be bypassed by Route 66.”*

Western gunslinger! photo DSC07180_zpsxdc43awr.jpgLocated 65 miles from the Grand Canyon, Williams today serves as a gateway to the Grand Canyon for those traveling west by car and or opting to take the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes tourists daily to and from the Grand Canyon. Operating since 1901 and tied historicallyto the development of the Grand Canyon as a tourist spot by the Santa Fe Railroad, the railway closed in the late 1960s but was resurrected in 1989 as a dedicated tourist train serving the national park. (The development of the Grand Canyon as a tourist resort is also closely tied to the rise of the Fred Harvey Company, one of the first chains of hotels and restaurants, famous for its “Harvey Girls.”)

The operators have quite shrewdly also positioned the railway as a “green” alternative to driving and polluting the Grand Canyon, claiming that it is responsible for keeping 50,000 cars from the park. These efforts—which also encouraged the use of reusable water bottles—is in line with the park’s efforts to promote green living and preserve the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon.

Though Williams is nearly a straight-line north-westerly drive from L.A., rather than take the 7.5-hour drive, we opted to fly to Las Vegas, stay there for a few days, then drive to Williams in a rented car. Vegas is about three-and-a-quarter hours from Williams and Phoenix is about an hour closer, being the closest major airports to Williams and the Grand Canyon.

All aboard! photo DSC07192_zpst7rl1ahv.jpgOur railway package began with a night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel at Williams (which is right next door to the Williams Train Depot); a two-and-a-quarter hour train ride to the Grand Canyon the next morning; an overnight stay at the Grand Canyon at one of the lodges inside the park’s tourist village and resident community, the Grand Canyon Village; and a return trip to Williams the following afternoon, with one final night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Given that the package included two breakfasts and dinners at the buffet restaurant at the Williams railway hotel, the train trip and entertainment, and a brief coach bus tour at the Grand Canyon, I have to say the cost of the trip was certainly very affordable. The company took care of our luggage the whole way, transporting them from one hotel room to the other the entire way, so we never had to worry about them. The package also included a cowboy gunfight at Williams and a “train robbery” on the way back–which featured the train robbers running alongside the train on their horses. All the employees on the tour were incredibly nice, welcoming and upbeat.

The Grand Canyon

As mentioned, our package included a coach bus tour of the Grand Canyon upon arrival. Frankly, now that I have a better understanding of the park, the bus tour was probably unnecessary, but it was nevertheless a good way for first-time visitors like ourselves to get oriented and learn about the park. After that, we were on our own.

 photo IMG_7441_zpsvbnuhnk8.jpgThe reason I say the bus tour was unnecessary is because the Grand Canyon has a great shuttle system consisting of three lines—one that serves the Grand Canyon Village which is the visitor nexus for the park and two that take visitors on round trips around the South Rim with stops at various key viewing spots on the rim. Anyone wishing to hike (or bike) can certainly do so, but the shuttles are obviously a great way to see the sights if you have limited time or energy. Each vista point offered as spectacular view as the last.

The canyon is about 277 miles long, 18 miles wide at its widest, and about a mile deep. No doubt one reason the Southern Rim of the canyon is the most developed and visited is because of the trails you can take down to the bottom: the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail. They are about 9 miles down, taking you more than 4,000 feet (the canyon’s elevation is about 7,000 feet). Hikers are not advised to attempt the hike in a day, especially since one has to remember the hike back is uphill. Hikers have the option of staying at a lodge called the Phantom Lodge at the bottom (or, presumably, camping). But you can certainly go as far down on the trail as you like and then turn around and come back.

The first day we stayed out long enough to watch the sunset—understandably a popular pastime as many people settled down around us to do the same. Returning back to the village, we found the “upscale” restaurants had 90-minute waits and decided to just hit the food court at our lodge. Not as good as a sit down restaurant meal, but at least we were able to order food quickly and replenish ourselves.

 photo DSC07302_zpsgzowtpiw.jpgOn the way back to our building, we found another advantage of being a little bit outside civilization—the night was so clear that we were able to easily find the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers, and Orion’s Belt!

The next day we spent exploring the western side of the Canyon. It was at that time that my brother, son and I (while my wife and daughter slept in) discovered we were within walking distance of the rim and the main trail heads.

We visited at the perfect time—it was spring break for my kids and the weather was clear and comfortable, being neither too warm or too cold. While there were many people there, I wouldn’t consider it crowded. I can only imagine what it’s like in the summer at the height of tourist season—I overheard a bus driver say that the park had 17 permanent suttle drivers and, during the summer, employed as many as 54 to accommodate the crowds.

I’ve never had love of heights—while it’s not debilitating and being at the Grand Canyon wasn’t a particular problem for me, I certainly wasn’t as brave as some folks who were able to rather non-chalantly go fairly close to the edge. Nevertheless, I have to admit, just starting down one of the trails was enough to bring my heart to my mouth—and in any case my son refused to start down anyway. (My daughter was more than game, but since no one else was willing, she was denied the chance—I told her she could do it on her own trip!)

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In the center of the photo above, you can see some people on the trail.
At least I can say I’m not alone because there were at least three instances while I was there of people horsing around in such a way that made others nearby literally scream—after witnessing one such incident involving a young man who leaped high from the edge for a good picture, one rather burly gent muttered to me “I must be getting old.”

While there are fences or walls at the main vista points, some of them would offer little protection for young children; and the main trails and other points have no such protection at all. But it’s all a matter of common sense and a little bit of caution. (Googling such incidents, I found that the park averages about 3-4 deaths a year from falls, and another 8-12 or so a year from “environmental factors” like dehydration and sunstroke).

Hoover Dam

 photo IMG_7570_zps4gyex7m3.jpgOn the drive back from Williams to Vegas, we stopped at the Hoover Dam since it was on the way. I’m really glad we did. When we got close to the dam area, there were only a few cars ahead of us in the security check line for vehicles; I can imagine that during the summer the service road can get quite a bit backed up. Plus, once we entered the dam area, a sign almost immediately pointed us to parking right there and we quickly found a parking space.

While there are several levels of tours visitors can take, we simply opted for the museum tour which includes a room that offers a nice overlook of the dam. And, of course, we made sure to walk across the dam that includes the state line dividing Arizona and Nevada.

Looks like a Godzilla set! photo DSC07620_zpsvrxofdlu.jpgAs the pictures accompany this blog show, the area also provides a spectacular view of the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, opened in 2010 and built for security concerns.. I’ve since learned it’s the second highest bridge in the U.S. after the Royal Gorges Dam in Colorado—and since we drove across the memorial bridge and I’ve walked across the Royal Gorges Dam Bridge (it’s a pedestrian tourist bridge that was the highest in the world until 2001), I can say I’ve traversed the two highest bridges in the U.S.!

The Hoover Dam was, in its way, as breathtaking and impressive as the Grand Canyon. Completed in the midst of the Great Depression, it is truly an engineering marvel (it was even completed two years ahead of schedule) that represents an apex of American ingenuity and industriousness that has stood the test of time.

Visiting the Hoover Dam also proved to be a nice bookend to our Grand Canyon trip since, of course, the Hoover Dam straddles the Colorado River, so it was a treat to point out to the kids that we were seeing the same river we saw at the Grand Canyon.

In all, our trip went smoothly and safely, and was a memorable vacation as American as apple pie!

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* Historical Route 66, made famous by legend, song (and TV), was displaced with the rise of the Interstate Highway System and Route 66, which runs through the town, was the last leg to be replaced by the I-40 in 1984. Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985. My wife reminded me that Santa Monica, California, near where we live in West L.A., was the west coast terminus of Route 66. Signs and souvenirs at the Santa Monica boardwalk capitalize on this connection.)


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Below are additional photos from our trip:

To see all the photos, visit the following links:

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Colorado River

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You can see a mule train of riders in the center of this photo


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