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Solicitation from Alliance reveals ...

Captain America Heroclix Set:
America's greatest comic hero leads the charge against the world's most sinister villains in Marvel HeroClix: Captain America! Featuring 63 new, collectible HeroClix figures (59 new sculpts), Marvel HeroClix: Captain America also introduces a major subtheme: Removable Pieces! Have you ever dreamed of hurling Captain America's shield at Red Skull, or going Super Nova as the Human Torch? Each Removable Piece figure comes with an element that can be attached and removed to enhance your play experience! Marvel HeroClix: Captain America is offered in individual booster packs as well as Gravity Feeds - a 10-figure set containing the most popular heroes and villains from the booster release, completely re-dialed for a new gameplay experience! Each Gravity Feed comes with 24 single-figure blind boosters.

News release: LOTR Heroclix game

(January 18, 2011-Hillside NJ) - Wizkids announced today the addition of "The Lord of the Rings" property to their 2011 HeroClix release schedule through a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The first products of the new "The Lord of the Rings" line will be a HeroClix miniatures game followed by a HeroClix strategic board game, both of which will release in the back half of 2011.

"The Lord of the Rings" HeroClix miniatures game will be sold in two different packages: a campaign style box set and the traditional booster format. The all-in-one campaign style box set will include everything a player needs, including NEW epic level rules and maps. The booster format includes the figures, similar to other previous HeroClix releases. With whichever format chosen, all of the twenty or more figures will be compatible with other HeroClix miniatures games.

The second release is a unique semi cooperative HeroClix board game, following in the similar format of our other HeroClix board game products. HeroClix figures, a gameboard and several decks of cards provide all the components needed to play this unique take on "The Lord of the Rings" story. The fun twist in the game is that players get to play as the Nazgul working with and against other Nazgul trying to capture the One Ring before it reaches Mount Doom.

Find us on the web at or friend us on Facebook at to see the latest developments from WizKids as they happen!

Snow in Britain

For all those things that I can't cover in multiple 140 character chunks, I am happy to still have this blog.

I have been very lucky to move to a place as nice as York. Overall, it has treated me and my family very well. I think if you added up all the red checkers they handily beat out all of the black checkers on the great balance of life. That is ... until snow falls. Then ... all bets are off.

We have received a week of fairly steady snow here. I actually don't mind it ... it seems to make me kind of happy. My wife thinks it is more light reflecting, I think it is that I can point and laugh at people who drive.

But in all seriousness, I now know what the UK will look like when the zombie attack comes. Whereas during the summer you find neighbourhoods of people who will loan you a rake, help you out with clearing your garden greenery or any number of other nice things, but when snow falls it's every family for themselves.

People have commented to me "Boy, this must feel like home to you". My response is "Yeah, but without the infrastructure." Cities are constantly caught off guard by a few flakes, even though apparently 10 years ago they always got this much snow. Streets aren't clear, there isn't enough grit, even though we live on an island that is about 40% sand and clay, and you can't buy proper boots to save your life (I finally found a decent pair after 3 years of trying).

But this isn't the worst of it. The worst of it is snow clearing on the home front. There is no culture of snow clearing etiquette. Garden etiquette, yes ... not snow clearing. When I came home Tuesday night, I found about 4 inches of snow. I also found that all I had in my garage was a garden spade with a foot long handle. That sucked. But I cleared my door and my neighbours, and made sure that we each had a path down our lane. Each day I visited more shops to find a better shovel. I still haven't. Not even a decent spade

Then more snow fell. And more. Then it kind of melted. Then it froze. I know this well. It is south western Ontario snow. When I came out on Thursday I cleared a little more in the morning with my crappy shovel and showed my neighbour's son how to break up the ice properly. I then cleared some of the ice for him, and got a friendly smile from the boy's mother.

I came home Friday, after more snow, to find that my neighbour had cleared his entire driveway, and not only has he not help clear any or my drive, he piled up the snow on MY driveway, clearly thinking it was "the middle".

I have just finished clearing mine, with my crappy shovel. What should have taken 5 min given the size of the driveway took over 30 min. But that didn't disturb me. I looked around and was disturbed. We have dozens of older adult neighbours. They are all snowed in. No one has come around and helped them out. Where are the helpful neighbours? Where are the kids looking to make £5 for a little work?

I would like to help, I can't help them out with my crappy shovel. The worst part is, even if I found a snow shovel, they aren't really snow shovels. They are horse mucking shovels. Plastic scoops with light handles. They have no metal bit to break up snow, they aren't balanced properly. I think I could make a killing importing them from a snowbound country ...

DC History in a Nutshell

I wrote this for someone who needed to understand DC history, and in particular how all of these alternate Earths fit in.

Originally there was an infinite number of Earths:
Earth-One - Silver Age
Earth-Two - Golden Age (even though they were first)
Crime Syndicate - Earth-Three
Earth-X - Charlston Characters (Blue Beetle)
Earth-Prime - Superboy Prime as the only superhero
Earth-S - Fawcett Characters (Marvel Family)

And so on to an uncountably infinite number (it is actually established as uncountably infinite at some point).

Then the Anti-monitor came. He did bad stuff. Caused a Crisis. The Monitor (only one of them) gathered heroes from the Earths to fight him. At the end of that Crisis only 1 earth remained, designated New Earth. In this Earth all of the previous Earths were mashed together and a common history timeline was established. Batman and Superman were never part of the All-star Squadron, they came after the war, and so on.

Several survivors of the Crisis went into a pocket dimension to live eternally happy: Superman of Earth-Two and his wife Lois, Superboy of Earth Prime and Alexander Luthor.

Three survivors were left on Earth - Power Girl, the Supergirl of Earth-Two who remembered nothing of her past, and Pariah, who was in a coma. Psycho Pirate, who had been in the clutches of the Anti-Monitor as his thrall remembered EVERYTHING and it drove him more mad than he was already.

Everything went along tickety boo for a while, there was a timeline altering event with Zero Hour, that resulted in Hypertime stories (Elseworlds) - but there was still only one Earth.

Then Grant Morrison wrote a book called JLA Earth-2 just to confuse everything. It was about a new CSA that lived in the Anti-matter universe. They referred to New Earth as Earth-2. That further makes people very confused. This Earth is never mentioned again.

Then along comes Geoff Johns with Infinite Crisis. The people in the pocket dimension for all eternity break out. Alexander Luthor goes mad and begins to recreate the infinite Earths trying to find the "perfect Earth". Everything goes a bit haywire - there is a Crisis (skies go read, big space battle at the centre of the universe etc) - all of the infinite Earths collapse down to one again - again called New Earth. Or so everyone thought. It is in this series that Earth-0 appears - but that is NOT the main DCU. It is an Earth where everyone is Bizarro and appears for a single panel. However, due to this confusion everyone now calls New Earth Earth-0 (so the above poster is not wrong).

Then along comes 52. Booster Gold finds out that in fact there are 52 exact copies of Earth existing at the same time. That's important, they were EXACT copies. Then, Mr. Mind, the super intelligent caterpillar, becomes this big time and space eating monster and starts munching on the 52 Earths. This changes ALL of the Earths so that they are all a little different.

All of the Earths now have alternate timelines that are very similar to those that came before the first Crisis. Although they are named similarly, they are entirely different from those that existed before Crisis on Infinite Earths. This is revealed in Justice Society of America with Supergirl travelling to what is now designated Earth-2 and finding all of the All Star Squadron there, her old friends, but there is also another Power Girl.

Still with me?

Those 52 Earths now have:

New Earth also now known as Earth-0 - Primary DCU
Earth-One - A new timeline where JMS's Superman Earth-One takes place that came out 1 week ago. It has a completely new and separate storyline from any other Earths. Current editorial has also stated that it is forbidden to have that Earth interact with any other. It is off limits. This is essentially DC's answer to the Ultimates - a fresh storyline with no continuity, written by top writers, to make stories relevant to new audiences. I am telling all new readers to DC to go read that and ignore everything else

Earth-2 - All-star Squadron
Earth-3 - Crime Society of America - NOT the one from Grant Morrison's book
Earth-4 - Charlton Comics noir stories
Earth-5 - ... you can look all of these up on wikipedia - look for Post-52 on the wikipedia page for DC comics Earths

Other important ones to people are:
Earth-11 - Reverse gender world
Earth-12 - Batman beyond
Earth-19 - Gotham by Gaslight
Earth-21 - New Frontier (by Darwyn Cooke)
Earth-22 - Kingdom Come
Earth-30 - Superman: Red Son
Earth-31 - Dark Knight Returns
Earth-32 - Batman is Green Lantern
Earth-43 - Batman Vampire series
Earth-50 - Wildstorm

And there are at least 5 worlds that have been shown but not given designations as of yet.

Now - this all seemed to be settled. But then, in Countdown to Final Crisis the following happened:
Superman-Prime destroyed Earth-10
Earth-10 was created again at the end of Countdown - bringing the number back up to 52; it is unclear if this world is the same Earth-10 or a copy of some other Earth
Earth-Prime was created - it is unclear as to whether this is a 53rd universe or one of the 52; some people suspect this has been left intentionally vague so that there is a loophole for when DC runs out of Earths
Earth-Q - All Star Superman - an "out-of-continuity" book; if so - why name it in the same style as the other Earth's at all? Why? Because it is Grant Morrison again being Grant, bathing himself in the history of DC

Finally - as if this wasn't all complicated enough - two weeks ago I picked up a copy of JLA just to give it a try. It had the new CSA in it from Earth-3 - sounds like fun to me!

It is revealed in that book that the CSA members have memories of PRE-CRISIS LIFETIMES!

I actually think that DC has completely lost its way with its continuity, and that is as a lifelong DC fan. The current editorial is a mess, and it needs a house cleaning
Boy ... haven't written on my blog since January.

Ok, here is the deal. I love Wondy. I have loved everything about her for a long time.

Yet, I like this look, I like this direction and I think it is desperately needed. As someone who writes for and about comics, the writing has been on the wall for Wondy for a while now.

I loved Gail's writing, I love every artist she worked with on Wondy. But honestly, for almost a decade Wonder Woman has been losing readers. Whether *you* liked the story is not the point. The point is, DC saw themselves losing almost 1000 readers a month, consistently. From the height where Gail Simone came on, the book gradually lost the fan base. The fans, for whatever reason, just weren't connecting with the best the book has been in a long time. What does that say?

This change is not about long time comic fans. This is not about fanboi's who will sit at the shop and tell you the entire history of the character and how John Byrne's interpretation was better than this, and George Perez's art was better than that. This is a move by a company, and an industry, to try to capture a tiny bit of the marketplace currently *owned* by manga. They want new, young, female fans of Wonder Woman. For the last 10 years, in the midst of mismanagement of the property, poor editorial direction, awful launches, and a number of other factors, there was fantastic stories that simply didn't sell. Their icon - their defining female image for the company - couldn't maintain a consistent readership for over a DECADE. When you consider that, and the number of other titles that have managed to change and grow in that time (despite a general drop in comic reading audiences) - that is pretty sad.

Honestly - DC is looking at 23% marketshare at the moment. They are behind the combined weight of Indy books now, and way behind Marvel. They *must* try something - anything - to find new fans. The reboots of longtime characters back to their roots are perhaps the only thing left to try. After two Crises, neither of which managed to get the universe to a point where readers could jump on, so they are rebooting their franchises one at a time. Green Lantern was first and was a success, then the Flash (which had not one, but two false starts), now Bruce Wayne, Diana, Green Arrow and soon Hawkman, the Atom and Martian Manhunter - they are trying to give new readers a chance to get into their characters and actual evolve them the way Marvel has done with their stock of characters.

Interestingly, on the note of the costume and how much people hate it, you can search for the information about the release of Thor and the first comic image that was released. Everyone decried it as a crime against nature and comics. And a large number compared it to the 1990s with overly detailed figures.

Guess which one is going to be in the new movie? Guess which one is now the mainstay in the universe?

That's right ... the one that came in under JMS's run.

I honestly hope this works, wherever Wondy ends up in the end. This franchise is at the point where I'm seriously worried that Diana will not have a regular book and not be around for my daughter to read when she grows up. Given his history, even with his missteps, I'm willing to give JMS a chance to show me a new Wonder Woman after all of this time.

More thoughts on the iPad

The following just came to me while I was writing a response, and I thought I would post it for those not following the comments to see:

[snip]...not all devices have to suit everyone. I've been saying for a long long time that for older adults, or even people with modest computing needs, the current netbook/laptop/desktop machines are just overbearing, intimidating and have a lot of pointless functionality. The vast majority of people do very little on their general computing devices. In fact, they do just [these things]: make documents (sometimes with pictures), surf the web, send email. That's about it.

Maybe this third device isn't for us hardcores consumer electronics guys - maybe it is for the breed of user that is tired of paying $800 and not using most of the functionality. Better to pay $500 and use it all. At least that is the usability argument I would make. Minimal design and all that is after all one of our heuristics.

Maybe it is the equivalent of a gaming console vs. a gaming PC. A lot of PC gamers don't understand the need for people like you and me to own consoles when you can r0xx0rz on a PC way better. But ... then again ... we don't need or want that. We just want to play a game. Maybe it is a truly task driven interface for non-gaming leisure computing.

You know, if this is really the intention - to finally move the majority of consumers away from generalized computing because they just don't really need it - it really could be the revolution Jobs thinks it is. Imagine - no start bars, no docks, no multitasking. Just picking the tasks you want to do and doing them.

You know ... it might just be that simple, it might just be that important.

The sky ... it is full of stars ...

This is what i'm talking about

On Engadget today:

Fine, it is a nice little piece - if you have never tried to construct any kind of sensible logic in an article.

One paragraph starts:

No such backdrop exists for the iPad, which will be Apple's most ambitious category-creation initiative since the days of Newton -- Apple's previous large slate device. The iPad, though, varies in its competitiveness versus alternatives. In its favor, its 9.7-inch screen should provide a strong personal entertainment experience for video -- it's a long overdue solid state successor to portable DVD players -- and games, where it's clearly differentiated from smaller-screened Nintendo and Sony devices. It also takes aim at Amazon's Kindle, offering color, backlighting and animation -- but at a higher price, non-free 3G access, and a book selection that won't necessarily appeal to more than those already interested in dedicated e-readers.

Then, the very next paragraph:

As for the browser, its lack of Adobe Flash handicaps its ability to display many Web sites -- notably Hulu, which would greatly enhance its value as...

The thing is - in the first paragraph the comparison is to e-book readers. The second talks about Flash that e-book readers can't do either. So are they handicapped as well?

Or is it more likely that the person cannot keep e-book readers and laptops straight in their head?

Maybe this is what Jobs meant about creating a third class of device. It is compared to two (three - if you count mobile devices) distinct categories of devices.



Catching the Red Herring: Multitasking

I've been, like many, reading reviews about the iPad. There is something that has irritated me a lot about the coverage: technology reporters seem to have been subsumed by technogeeks instead of good writers. Not only that, I'm starting to think that the technogeeks are no longer educated people in CS or ICT, or even informed consumers. Instead, the entirety of what used to be respected technology related journalism seems to have been subsumed by ... to put it in a word ... wankers.

I actually have a lot of work to do, so I cannot put as much time into this post as I would like, but for my HCI students and my peers in the academy and industry, I feel it important to point the following thing out: the media is lying to you.

There have been two issues that have stood out as complaints in every article I have read about the iPad: the lack of multitasking and the lack of Flash.

The Flash story will be one for the ages. It is likely to be resolved within 5 years once both Apple and Adobe assure themselves that they can each make bajillions of dollars. The problem is not with the platform (either the iPod/iPhone or the iPad). The problem is with corporate politics. I'm sure that we can all think of corporate wars that have kept one or more technologies off of a particular platform. Look at the console gaming world for LOTS of proprietary hardware/software that people aren't sharing to play nicely. This is what will occur more often as we move more and more away from general computing devices to specialized computing devices (and we are headed that way quickly in my opinion).

Now, the second red herring: Multitasking. There are a lot of really wrong reports out there on the web. 'They' are frankly, lying. I'm beginning to wonder if any of the people at Engadget or any number of other technology sites have even tried the iPod/iPhone platform. I was sure that they were wrong, so I went and did a little test.

I asked a friend of mine, lets call him S. Daries. No ... that's too obvious. Staton D. Yeah that will work. He was saying that he couldn't listen to music and surf the web on the iPhone like he can on his Android. I said to him: Name me a bunch of tasks that you want to be able to do on the iPhone.

Task set 1:
Play music
Read email

I asked him how he would do it on his Android phone. It consisted of opening an application. Typing in the name of an artist, then choosing the song. Then, bringing up the mail client and reading email.

On my iMac I did the following: Opened iTunes which automatically opened with a maximized window. Searched for an artist. Played Appetite for Destruction. Pressed the icon for my email client. My mail client came up, hiding half of the iTunes window, and I read my mail.

On my iPhone I did the following: Opened iTunes Opened iTunes which automatically opened with a maximized window. Searched for an artist. Played Welcome to the Jungle from Appetite for Destruction. Presed the home key. Pressed the icon for my email client. My mail client came up, hiding half of the iTunes window, and I read my mail.

In both cases the music kept playing.

The difference: 1 button press. Assuming response times are equal (which they aren't but let's say that we do as the iPad comes close in processing power). Taking a standard GOMS analysis technique, we're talking about 0.2-0.5 second difference.

He asked me if I could do that with a non-apple app. So I opened the Twitter client TweetDeck which is notorious for developing its own widget set. My twitter feeds opened up and Slash kept slashing his way through Appetite on the iPhone.

He asked me if I could then return to the mail client. Pressed home. Return to mail client and the email that I had been reading came up.

It was at this point my friend was astonished. "It would seem that I have been misled." said he. Wanting a better test he proposed the following (which is apparently something he does on his phone which was shocking given the complexity of the tasks):

Task set 2:
Play music
Open two documents in Google docs; a document and a spreadsheet
Open a wikipedia article for referencing something
Return to documents

I went through and did all of that on both the desktop and on the iPhone.

Open iTunes as above.
Open browser, navigate to Google docs.
Open document in tab one
Open spreadsheet in tab two
Open wikipedia via address bar in tab 3

Open iTunes as above.
Press home
Open browser, navigate to Google docs.
Open document in panel one
Open spreadsheet in panel two
Press home
Open Wikipanion app
Press home
Open browser again

Now using the above - doing the same kind of analysis and assuming worst case of 0.5 seconds per button press we're talking 3 extra home button presses - so 1.5 seconds. However, in the case of wikipedia I had to type in the address which is 17 button presses times 0.5 seconds.

But wait ... I used Wikipanion. Let's assume that I did it in the browser instead. Let's assume that both have Wikipedia bookmarked and organized in the bookmarks in a clever way so I can find them (which they won't be).

Ok, then it works out to about 1.5 seconds more to do it on my iPhone and open wikipedia in the browser.

However, the user satisfaction rating (using myself as a very unscientific example) goes WAY UP when I use Wikipanion Wikipanion is a customized application that allows me to find information in a much more targeted way and then formats it perfectly for the screen, and so my user experience is, in general, increased. After all, that's why I have that app on my iPhone. I liked it ... a lot.

So there you have it. I'm losing 1.5 seconds of my life. However, I'm willing to bank on that if there are well developed applications that improve the user experience (either satisfaction, or any number of other characteristics), I will be willing to make that trade. Indeed, I'd even suspect that I gain that much back just because of the better formatting for the screen on Wikipedia.

Once again, it occurs to me that multitasking is possible on the iPhone. It just isn't the multitasking you are used to. More to the point, I think that Apple has made a conscious decision to not allow passive multitasking like twitter feeds and such because they alter the user experience so much. However, that's research for another day.

So to all those guys out on the interweb ... there is my opinion. Mine has hard (well not so hard but more than "it suxx0rz") data attached to it. I've shown you mine ... show me yours!

As an aside, amazingly Google docs was slick as all get out on the iPhone, which i didn't expect (note, I couldn't figure out how to edit documents - if someone knows how let me know).

Green Lantern 42

I just finished reading Green Lantern Corps 42.

Dear Peter Tomasi - if characters have to die in comic universes, I want you to write them all. Seriously, it actually gave me chills. Well done sir. It shows that not all deaths in comics have to be empty.

However, my DCU is a lot darker now as a true light has gone out.

Costume Song

In honor of Halloween:

I couldn't stop laughing at this. I've clearly cracked under the stress.


Superman Animated
Chris Power

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February 2011



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