Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Back in early 1995 comic book collecting was a whirlwind for me, there was so many fun books on the shelves each week that I was spending every red cent I had on titles such as anything X-Men, anything Spider-Man, anything Batman and other popular comics that a little gem by one of the industries greatest creators almost flew underneath my radar. That creator was the incredible Chris Claremont of X-Men fame and the book was a team comic called “Sovereign Seven” (S7), a series that turned me from a comic book collector that would buy anything that was popular to a comic book collector who actually sought out books that went unnoticed by the general “funny book” buying population.
I was somewhat new to buying X-Men comics in early 1995, I was building my X-Men collection from scratch and a huge chunk of the stuff I was buying was stuff that Chris Claremont was writing. I fell so totally in love with what he was doing on X-Men and other X-Men related titles that when I found out he was coming out with a team book under the DC banner I just knew I had to be a part of it, but unless I picked up my comic book store’s monthly newsletter I wouldn’t have even known that Sovereign Seven existed since I didn’t pay much attention to DC at the time aside from Batman. There they were on the front cover, all 7 members in an epic pose that ended up gracing the cover of their first issue, the title said “coming in June” and since it was May I was pumped up knowing that the book was only a month away. Man, those were the days, back then I used to get so jacked when there was a comic book coming out that I wanted to get my hands on, I still get excited when something tickles my fancy but it isn’t nearly the feeling I would get back in those days. After a long month of waiting I was finally able to get my hands on the first issue of Sovereign Seven, I don’t know what it was about that first issue but I felt like I had struck gold and treated that comic as if it were made of the most delicate of materials. I was simply ecstatic and after reading S7, I felt like I was a part of something special and read the publication from cover to cover about a thousand times, and while everyone in the world was reading X-Men books and everyone who wasn’t reading those were reading whatever the hot Image team books were, I was reading S7 and I felt like I was reading the best team book on the stands. It wasn’t though, in fact, not many people read Sovereign Seven and aside from it’s first 6 issues or so the title had a hard time competing and usually found itself toward the lower half of the top 100 monthly comics, which by today's standards would make the book a runaway hit. Critics found the story to be too confusing and many others considered the book to be a poor man’s X-Men title by a creator who wished he was still working on the merry mutants but wasn’t, but I didn’t care what everyone else was saying because I loved it and that’s all that mattered to me.
Sovereign Seven did achieve something that has never been achieved in comics before, it was the first comic book to ever be a creator owned title that took place within the core DC continuity. Not only that, but it was the first creator owned book to actually take a well known DC owned character and placed them within the book as a permanent member of the cast. That was unheard of back in those days (still is) and never has a group of characters interacted with company owned properties within the pages of a book that was not self published, so if anything I guess both Claremont and the S7 creative team had that going for them. As for the plot of the book? Well, the story in itself was an interesting one, 7 individuals were taken from their dying worlds to form a team while they are repeatedly chased by something they only knew as being called “The Rapture”. While they waited for The Rapture to strike they often dealt with a wide array of enemies ranging from classic DC super-villains to the evil mother of the groups leader, and even a shape shifter who took control of one of the members early in the series who revealed to have not been who they thought she was some 10 issues later. Those who enjoyed the series hoped for Sovereign Seven to take off with popularity and spawn an action figure line, multiple spin-off comics, cartoons, movies, and other such media like X-Men had enjoyed over at Marvel, but unfortunately it was not meant to be. S7 as a series lasted only 36 issues and a couple different annuals before it was cancelled by DC due to poor sales toward the end of it’s run, which I felt was a shame since the title really seemed to be getting very interesting around issue #30 with a storyline that was leading into the Sovereigns coming face to face with The Rapture. In the final issue of s7 titled “The Final Victory”, the Sovereigns faced off against the very enemy that they’ve feared since the beginning and landed the definite victory, it was a shame because the final issue felt rushed and the victory seemed forced, it turned out that way most likely because the creative team probably found out about the series cancellation and wanted to have the series end with an end to the story. So with no time left on the clock they tossed a story together as a way to give the fans a certain ending and they creatively came up with a way to make it so the series had no real connection to the real DC continuity, which personally ticked me off as a fan of the book. The final few pages revealed that the team and their adventures were nothing more than a dream shared between the two owners of the Crossroads Inn, an inn that the Sovereign’s worked for in the story. And just like that, the series was finished.
Despite Sovereign Seven’s highs and lows I stuck by the book for all 3 years of it’s publication and loved every minute of it, I must have read through the entire 36 issues more than a dozen times and I felt like I really got to know the characters and bonded with them, something I have a hard time with these days (especially with Marvel/DC). Oddly enough, S7’s cancellation started an unusual turn of events that eventually saw me leave comic book collecting for a little while, it wasn’t long and it didn’t happen right away but I was done from around late 1998-early 2000 before I picked up another comic from the stands. I felt like a small piece of me had died when S7 was cancelled and for the next several months I tried to confide in X-Men titles and the “Heroes Return” storyline from Marvel to soften the blow, as well as books from DC and Image but nothing could fill the void left by Sovereign Seven’s cancellation. I honestly can’t say why I felt so attached to this comic, I’ve read 100 team books that told a better story and had better artwork but there was just something special about S7 that stuck with me and I guess I have no choice but to chalk it up to one of those weird things that a person just can’t explain, sort of like falling in love or something to that effect. Regardless of everything I’ve said I would urge comic book fans who enjoy reading team books to check out Sovereign Seven, it’s a fun comic that was a first of it’s kind with the whole creator owned storyline behind it and it’s definitely an interesting piece of comic book history, or DC history at the very least. Heck, mycomicshop.com has the entire series for about $1.10 per issue in NM condition with issues dropping below the $.90 mark if you don’t mind scuffs, prices like that are very generous and make the comic worth checking out if you haven’t already. Well, I guess it’s time to bring this blog post to an end, I just want to take this time to thank Chris Claremont, Dwayne Turner, Ron Lim, and the rest of the awesome Sovereign Seven creative team for making this series one of my favorite all-time comic books and for giving me something to look forward to every month for 3 whole years of my life. You guys eternally rock.
Reach for the stars and enjoy the ride.
As always I want to thank those who took the time to read my blog, it's much appreciated and you can always check me out at www.twitter.com/manga4life as well as TZ, CBR, and FUNI.
©2011 Cozy Cabin Publishing LLC
Monday, May 16, 2011
So, lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the video game industry and especially about the XboX 360/PS3 and which system is better. I know I have a lot of online friends who have an Xbox 360, and some of you even have both, but there are the few of you out there who have just the PS3 and I know a lot of the comments I’ve made on Twitter and elsewhere online has angered some of you. I just wanted to create this entry for The Thought Corner to justify my position as to why I think, more like know, the XboX 360 is superior to the PS3.
To start things off I just want to solidify the fact that I’ve had plenty of experience playing the PS3, so when people are reading this I don’t want them to think that I’m some XboX 360 fan boy who refuses to give anything other than my system of choice a fighting chance. If that happens to be what your thinking then allow me to hand you a huge slice of humble pie and go into detail about my experiences with the PS3 and why I‘ve come to the conclusion that I‘m writing about on this blog.
My experiences with the PS3 date back to mid-2008 when I got a chance to sit down and play it for the first time (stores aside) at a friends house, he is huge into fighting games and he tossed in one of the popular fighting games of the year (Soul Caliber, maybe?) and we fired up quite a few rounds of butt kicking action. The unbalanced controller made it difficult for me to get used to, something I’ve always hated about Playstation controllers, and I had a hard time learning combo’s and special moves as I played through all the different rounds we played. I’ve felt this way about the PS3’s controller when I played it at a Best Buy and then a Wal-Mart months before trying it at my buddies house and I’ve never been sold on the side by side dual analog joysticks, it’s just unnatural feeling and not ergonomic enough.
After I tried my hand at fighting games he went ahead and threw in a racing game, I think it was Midnight Club or something along those lines, it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea but it was okay for a racing game and I was actually able to beat him in a couple of races so my adrenaline was pumping and we moved onto COD4: Modern Warfare. I was impressed with Modern Warfare, the game had amazing graphics and the game play was solid as a rock, but it came down to the controller being the bane of the situation and my hands were quickly cramping up. It was time to move onto something else so we played a few different games that were apparently PS3 exclusives and I was excited to see what these games were all about, but unfortunately nothing held my interest and everything was lackluster at best.
The 2nd time I really got to sit down and play the PS3 was when my girlfriends brother received one for Christmas in 2009, shortly after I had made the decision to purchase an XboX 360. I came over to pick her up so we could go shopping but she woke up late and still needed to show and get ready to go, her brother was playing the most recent John Madden football game and asked if I wanted to play with him, I agreed and we played Madden for a little while. The game was certainly nothing special and when we were done with Madden he wanted to know if I wanted to play a shooting game called “Haze” which, for a long time, was a PS3 exclusive. I had time to kill so he put it on and we played for about a half an hour before my girlfriend was ready to get going, the game was terrible, when I was playing Haze I couldn’t get into what was going on and the controls were so jerky that it created such a huge distraction that I eventually had to put the controller down and stop playing.
Since then I spent some time playing the PS3 inside of random stores such as GameStop, Toys R’ Us, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart, usually trying out whatever games they have on display to draw the customer into buying that specific game and/or system and some of the games were enjoyable while most weren’t. I did make one final attempt at playing the PS3 at the person’s house where I got acquainted to it the first time and my experience is usually always the same, decent game coupled with a terrible controller or unenjoyable game coupled with a terrible controller, either way there was nothing that grabbed me in and convinced me that the PS3 was the way to go and the systems controller deserves the negative press that it gets.
Now, from here on out I’m going to compare the two systems in a series of categories and explain why the Xbox 360 is by far and away the better of the two consoles, some of the categories are going to include online play, hardware, software, content and other aspects of the systems that help to make Microsoft’s machine the king of the hill to the serious gamer. The first category I’m going to discuss is the hardware aspects of the machines and the differences between them.
When comparing the hardware of these two machines it’s hard to fault the PS3 for it’s power and inclusion of a blu-ray DVD player, Sony’s machine is clearly packing more power than Microsoft’s and for the few and the proud who actually buy blu-ray DVD’s they have a nice option to watch them on the PS3 instead of purchasing a separate machine to view them on. Also, the fact that you can use any SATA hard drive for the systems memory source is a plus because if you hunt hard enough you could get a new drive for under $40 on sale in many retail outlets, the XboX 360’s hard drive is much more expensive. But that’s basically where the PS3’s praise comes to an end. Unfortunately for Sony the system itself was originally large and bulky compared to the XboX 360 and featured an ugly design and an extremely high price point for what you were actually getting, the controller for the PS3 has been lambasted by almost every reviewer on the web and in print due to it having a “L1/L2” scheme and not including a trigger like on the XboX 360. This coupled with the fact that the controller isn’t very comfortable or ergonomic due to having the two analog joysticks sitting right next to eachother on an even level didn’t help Sony’s cause either, meanwhile the XboX 360‘s controller has the analog sticks at a “10&2“ style position so it feels more natural and molds to your hands better. In fact, I’ve never spoken to someone who owned both systems who preferred the design of the PS3 and it’s controller to the XboX 360’s, so because of the reasons listed above I would give the edge to Microsoft by a huge margin, though I do admit that the power of the PS3 and the blu-ray player are really nice.
Online Play & Content
These days one of the biggest and most important aspects of gaming is the online play, another huge reason as to why the XboX 360 is superior to the PS3. I’ve played both systems online and the 360 certainly offered a smoother and more rich gaming experience when playing against others over the web, and of all the reviews and editorials I’ve read that helped me toward my decision to purchase the XboX 360 I’ve yet to come across a writing that has disagreed with me. Sure, the PS3’s online service is free and you get an included web browser when you purchase a PS3, but the gaming experience isn’t nearly that of the XboX’s and for the monthly fee you are given something that is a lot more polished and accessible. Heck, up until recently you couldn’t even use the PS3’s online content due to a major hack that had the Playstation Network down for almost a month, oh and there was the little issue where credit card numbers for those who have their PS3‘s online were stolen and owners have been getting fraudulent charges in their statements, so yeah, security is a huge plus for Microsoft as well. Also, it’s been great getting a lot of downloadable content available to XboX 360 owners first, usually it’s only by a few days to a whole week but for the most part I’ve been noticing a lot of IGN articles where they mention that DLC has been hitting XboX Live (XBL) first before the Playstation Network (PSN) users have access to it (though this isn‘t always the case). And last but not least would be the XboX Live Arcade itself which offers a deeper library of downloadable games and other fun activities, lot’s of which are media based, and a richer experience when it comes to finding downloads you want and grabbing them.
One big thing that draws people to a certain gaming system is the games themselves, so software companies are paid big bucks to develop exclusive titles for consoles to attract people into buying their hardware, both XboX 360 and PS3 have a sufficient amount of exclusive games but only one system can reign supreme. Games are often a matter of taste with the player who’s purchasing these titles, certain players like certain things while other players may prefer something different, so this part of my editorial is all up to you: the consumer. But judging by overall sales of the exclusive titles to each console I would say that the XboX 360 has won the battle of the exclusives (PC excluded) with games like the RPG’s Fable II and Fable III which enjoyed high sales figures and praise from review publications and web sites such as IGN, Gamespot, Gametrailers, GameInformer, and Joystiq. Other exclusive games to note would include the Gears of War franchise which had taken off like wildfire and landed stellar reviews from almost ever publication in the industry, and of course Halo 3 and Halo Reach which were met with amazing reviews and massive sales. Also, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 were both huge hits for the XboX 360 and helped to draw in fans with it’s zombie killing action, the L4D series has enjoyed huge success with the critics which has rolled over into high sales figures for the franchise and for Microsoft‘s console as well. To be fair, the PS3 does have it’s share of exclusive titles that are available for it, some have been met with critical success as well, but the general public has spoken and the XboX 360 defeats Sony’s machine when it comes to exclusives. And also, of the 7 or 8 exclusive titles for the PS3 I’ve played I think I was only floored with excitement for maybe 2 of them, that’s not exactly something that got me excited to go out and plunk down my hard earned cash on a Playstation. Games aside, one huge win for the 360 would be the fact that the controller was basically created with first person shooter’s (FPS) in mind, the developers aligned the analog sticks perfectly for playing FPS games and instead of an “L1/L2” system they gave the players triggers at the top of the controller’s for a better shooting experience which makes FPS gaming a lot more enjoyable on the XboX. Huge win indeed.
When it comes to picking a video game system it’s very much a “to each their own” kind of thing, but in this case one is clearly better than the other and there really is not much argument toward the contrary. But again, I don’t fault people for owning a Playstation 3, the PS2 was a juggernaught of a system and had more exclusives and big titles than anyone in that generation of gaming and consumers didn’t know that Sony was going to stumble and not release anything worthy of playing for almost 2 years after it’s launch. It’s not the players fault, it’s the company’s fault and they are a distant 3rd in the console race for the first time in it’s history because of 3 key ingredients: High price point, not enough games for too long, and lackluster online experience compared to the XboX 360. Had Sony came out swinging right out of the gate upon the PS3’s release then it may have been another story, heck, Sony picked up the slack around 2009 and all the way through 2011 and started releasing some big titles and just as it seemed that it was more of a 3 horse race instead of 2 horse and a pony, their network gets hacked. Players were left without being able to download content or play their games online and Sony has opened themselves up for a massive class action law suit thanks to many PSN subscribers having their credit card information stolen from them. It’s hard to believe but the future of Sony in the video game market looks somewhat bleak at the time of this writing and after almost 15 years of running strong within the video game industry we could be looking at an entirely different market without them.
As always I want to thank those who took the time to read my blog, it's much appreciated and you can always check me out at www.twitter.com/manga4life as well as TZ and FUNI.
©2011 Cozy Cabin Publishing LLC