Squiggles and Scribbles

The internet has once again been ablaze with conversations, thoughtful pieces and uncontrollable rage (OK, maybe not so much the last one) surrounding the idea of creators charging for signatures at conventions.  It’s been interesting seeing people’s varying opinions on this subject, while many have dropped blanket condemnations on those who do charge, others have taken a more sympathetic view depending on many potential situations and scenarios.  I thought I’d take a few minutes to give my opinion and drop down a few examples to help explain said opinion.


First off, I think it’s incredibly important to look at a creators current situation, specifically their level of involvement in the creation of comics.  Nobody in their right mind can disagree with the fact that life as a comic creator, whether a writer, artist or in some cases both, is an easy life.  There’s a huge amount of work that goes into each and every issue and due to the high level of work, long hours and in some cases a level of pressure that can prove hazardous to health, it should come as no surprise that this industry can burn people out.  It’s happened before, and I can appreciate that towards the twilight of a career creators will want to cut down on the amount of work they’re doing, be it for health reasons or perhaps to be able to spend more time with family and loved ones.  The problem, of course, is that if a creator were to cut down to, say, one book a month then that one book may not be enough to pay essential bills, let alone be able to enjoy their lives.  In this instance, who’s to deny their right to supplement their now relatively small income by placing a charge on signing books, particularly after a long and colourful career of entertaining us.

Of course, there’s the mitigation of the speculator market too.  Some creators, Dan Slott being a good example, will charge people that arrive at his table with multiple copies of the same issue.  It’s plainly obvious these people are showing up at his table to get a quick signature then flip the books online for a tidy profit.  Maybe on of those copies are for themselves, maybe none of them are, but I have a relatively low opinion of people who do this since they’re both looking to profit of the back of someone else’s work without any real effort of their own and frankly they can be selfishly holding up the line for the genuine fans that may only have a couple of books they want signed.  I think this is totally reasonable, since they either get a cut of any potential profit unfairly made by these “flippers” or they stop them from doing it at all by killing any profit at all, which then gets the line moving again.

There is one more prime point to make with regards to writers charging for signatures at conventions, that being that artists have two very good points of income during shows; commissions and prints.  This is an option that I’d say most writers don’t have, since there are only a few in the industry that do both.  The more talented the artist, the higher the price of a commission (and rightly so) which means more profit.  I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with dropping cash on a talented artists table to get an awesome sketch, I’ve done so many times before and will continue to do so moving forward.  But for some writers, those who are maybe having a bit of a hard time making ends meet (it happens to the best of us) this is a great opportunity to make up for not being able to add to their income with something like a sketch list.

The other side of the argument has merit too, don’t get me wrong, but without knowing the exact personal and financial situation of any creator that is charging for signatures there isn’t a single one of us in any position to judge them for it.  All we have the right to do is decide whether we want that signature enough to pay or not.  We live in a capitalist society, we get to choose what we spend our hard earned money on outside of necessary things like food and bills, exercise that choice.  But try to be less judgemental about those you probably know less about than you think.


Outrage! Hypocrisy!

Anyone who is a fan of one of the following people or things will know exactly what I’m about to discuss; Frank Cho, Spider-Gwen and Robbi Rodriguez.  Since you probably know the story so far, let’s have a really quick recap in bullet point format.

  • Frank Cho draws a picture of Spider-Gwen on a blank variant, a light hearted parody of Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman variant.  Check it out here.
  • Robbi Rodriguez makes a comment about drawing pictures of his children and makes a veiled yet transparent threat of violence against Cho.
  • Cho responds by inserting a funny little Spider-Gwen on all of his blank variant sketches screaming “outrage”.
  • Rodriguez makes another comment on how Cho should be thankful he’s been made relevant again, thanks to Rodriguez.
  • Cho responds with this.

Now I tend to sit on the sidelines of such a thing with a metaphorical bag of popcorn and a literal beer and just watch it play out, but I’m really bored right now so I thought I’d offer up my own opinion.  First, surrounding the actual original sketch, I get why many people don’t like it and with art being a subjective thing, anyone can like or dislike whatever they want.  Personally, I thought it was a well drawn image, and cleverly drawn in such a way that Gwen didn’t look like the teenager she’s meant to be in the comics.

Robbi Rodriguez’s response, yeah, not so cool.  He didn’t really create a new character so much as help chuck spider powers on to a character that’s been long dead in the 616 universe.  Ok, that’s maybe a little harsh.  I stand by my enjoyment of the series, and I think Robbi’s costume design is absolutely bang on.  They have made a comic that has successfully appealed to old and new readers alike.  But I think the comparison of Cho’s drawing to that of a dirty picture of one of his kids is blowing things out of proportion.

Cho’s sketches from here on out have been very deliberately inflammatory, unnecessarily so perhaps but I’ll be damned if I haven’t both enjoyed the artwork and had a little chuckle at the content itself.  Cho is a phenomenally talented artist, an artist I put into the same category as J. Scott Campbell, Terry Dodson and Adam Hughes.  Bloody hell, that is a superb collection of artists.  But I think at that point most artists would have shrugged at the prospect of someone not liking their work and voicing that opinion and moved on.  I get the feeling Cho has taken the complete opposite approach since a lot of the criticism has been overly harsh.

From there we have the final response from Robbi, stating Cho should thank him for making him relevant in the industry again.  Hahahahahahaha… what?!  You think Cho got the job on Totally-Awesome Hulk because of this situation?  No.  You think Cho commands a high rate for commissions and sketch covers because of Rodriguez?  Nope.  Will Cho continue to get work in the future due to this new found relevance Rodriguez has brought him?  No again.  Cho is where he is due to incredible talent and two fucking decades of hard work.  The nerve of Rodriguez after one book became a hit is baffling and frankly makes me lose respect for him.

The thing is (yes I’ve skipped the last point, the image is telling enough) Rodriguez had the major problem with Spider-Gwen being drawn in this rather suggestive manner, in an image that makes her look mid-twenties I’d say.  But in a rather interesting turn of events has thrown his weight behind this new Gweenpool one shot announced by Marvel so much he’s doing a variant cover for it.  So, not slightly suggested images of a grown up version of the character I kind of semi created, but it’s totally fine for me to help turn “one of my kids” into a psychopathic murderer shown holding twin pistols on the cover.


Rainbow Six And The Need For Betas

As anyone with a vested interest in video games, particularly first person shooters, will know, this weekend marked the launch of the Rainbow Six Siege closed beta test on all platforms.  I nabbed myself a guaranteed access code without the inherent risk of pre-ordering a Ubisoft game since they’re one of the main developers/publishers that has pretty much run out of goodwill by this point, so in between work and other commitments I’ve managed to put around about ten hours into the beta so far.  Thankfully, due to issues with the beta access website, Ubisoft have now committed to keeping the beta running all the way to October 1st.  Good job.  This game needs as much technical testing and assistance as it can get before its December launch date.  It adds further weight to the fact that beta tests are a full on requirement with multiplayer games these days and it adds fuel to the already sizeable fire that publishers are rushing developers into getting games out the gate well before they’re ready.


It’s funny because from a gameplay stand point, the game feels pretty much done.  There are a few things that need balancing, which a beta is great for.  Operators using the riot shield with a pistol are a tough challenge, while they’re stood upright you can shoot out their legs but while crouched and moving forward there isn’t a single operator that can counter them in a one on one fight.  The hip fired pistols are also way, way too accurate and pulling headshots, which are a one shot kill regardless of weapon, is much too easy.  Granted, there’s a certain feeling of baddassery by sauntering into a room and pulling three straight headshots but at the same time, it feels a little cheap and dirty.

The MP5 could probably do with a bit of balancing too, the recoil is so minor that even while unloading a full mag down a corridor, it’s practically laser beam accurate.  It requires minor balancing tweaks here and there but on the whole it almost seems to be there, the real issue I’ve had is with stability.

For reference I’m playing on Xbox One.

Now, it would appear the game doesn’t run on dedicated servers, but rather uses a player as host.  I’ve had a couple of situations where a host has either left or lost connection and then you get that little “migrating to new host” message.  It seems a little backwards, we’re in 2015 and a time where Microsoft is really working on this whole cloud based gaming, which certainly has its merits.  The main this is though is Ubisoft are not a small time publisher, there is no way dedicated servers would be decided against for monetary reasons which means they either made this decision thinking it was a good idea (please) or Ubisoft don’t have faith this game will succeed.

Finding a game can be an absolute nightmare too, it frequently takes me at least five minutes to get added into a squad which is appalling, I’ve had situations where it won’t even find me a game unless I drop out of the search and back in two or three times.  Then there are the multiple times I’ve been added to a squad only to be met with an error code, where the game then proceeds to drop me back to the main menu screen.  It’s wildly frustrating.

But it’s not just the sometimes crippling network issues that hound the beta, but actual game stability has been an issue for me on Xbox One too.  At most I can play four or five games in a row at the moment before I either lose connection or the game fully crashes to the home screen.  Sometimes the game won’t even open when selected from the Xbox home screen.  Frankly, if the game launched like this, retailers would need to be preparing to make concessions for a large amount of refunds, I would not accept a game in the state at all.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely why beta tests should be mandatory for all multiplayer games.  I actually think the game, when it works, is a lot of fun.  Will I pre-order it?  Nope.  Will I buy it day one?  More than likely not.  Fortunately, the game will be going through an open beta test before launch too so it can be stress tested with a larger audience before it’s fully released, but they’re beta testing a game a little over two months away from launch and, frankly, I’m not entirely convinced they’ve left themselves enough time to fix some of the more serious issues and problems that need addressing here to make the game fully playable.

With a lack of dedicated single player campaign, a fundamentally flawed and outdated host system instead of dedicated servers, serious game stability issues and a game engine that looks to be more at home on the 360 than the One Rainbow Six Siege finds itself in the unenviable position of facing a rather steep uphill climb with a relatively short amount of time in which to do it before launch.  Will they manage it?  I couldn’t say for sure, but with the news of the omission of a proper campaign and my first impressions from the beta, this looks like a £20 purchase in a few months, which is a real shame.

Oh boy

I said I’d keep up with this better, didn’t I?  Well, that theory flew right out the window.  I apologise.  I’ve had a whole mess of switching from overnight shifts back to day shifts, then back on to overnights and now seem to have settled back in to working regular day shifts again.  All this for a job that is usually regular day shifts that either start at 7:30 the earliest and end 20:00 at the latest.  It’s been tough, to say the least, especially the one week where I worked 72 hours over the course of 6 days.  Oh yeah, and I caved and bought The Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox One.  Whoops.

Enough excuses, I’ve found it extremely frustrating that I’ve either not found the time to update this blog more often or not looked hard enough for the time, so I’m pushing myself to do it.  The funny thing is, I enjoy it but I think part of the problem was the way I’d set myself up for it.  I wanted to keep to a rigid structure of posting certain things on certain days, which is totally against my nature.  I don’t do regular patterns, I don’t like routines, I’m just not wired that way.  So from here, I’ll try and get two or three posts up a week but frankly those could drop on any day of the week.  It’ll be a minimum of two, but I guess based on what’s happening during any given week it may well be a little more.  I think this will fit my life and my style much better.  I accidentally sucked all the fun out of my own hobby!  No more!

So, consider this an All-New Slightly-Different start, still looking at the same kinds of things as before but less structured.  We’ll see how things go.