Graphic Novels and Web Comics I Put on Patrick's Reading List

Some of which he even read.

At Popehat, we  celebrate our core beliefs.  To achieve victory, one must attack.  But one cannot attack without a plan.  A plan cannot be formed without mastering fundamentals.  And nothing is more fundamental than reading.  We even think pictures occasionally enhance the experience.  As such, here's a slice of my standing list of recommendations to Patrick.  With bonus material covering Patrick's thoughts where applicable, or he can just comment in the thread like a big boy.  Waxing poetic is not my strong suit, but here goes anyway!

Planetary – Warren Ellis.  Archaeologists of the Impossible!  Planetary are an organization dedicated to charting the secret history of the twentieth century, in a world with super heroes and many other sorts of insane, fantastic things.  It's both a love letter to 5+ decades of pop culture as well as an interesting treatment of those things.  It's entire premise was based on one of those geeky exercises "if Reed Richards is the smartest person in the universe, why is Earth-616 as bad off as our own", though you'll have to read it to discover the answer (which is satisfying). Patrick started and I believe finished it and loved it.

Morning Glories – Nick Spencer.  A group of seemingly random brilliant and troubled teenagers is "invited" to attend a prestigious prep school.  There are no safe spaces at Morning Glory Academy, and I mean that literally.  You have no idea where this is going, and won't at the end of the first six issues.  Except that it's crazy and if you liked it like I did you'll be dying to know what happens next.  Though I have fallen behind (my disposable income is not unlimited, and it's not the only thing I read, I think I'm 3 or maybe 4 trades behind now), it's high up on my "things to catch up on in 2016" list.  It's a different and interesting comic and the characters are never far from my thoughts.

All Star Superman – Grant Morrison.  Widely hailed as one of the best Superman stories of all time.   If you're the sort of person that doesn't like Superman because a lot of Superman stories come off as badly written fanfic, this is a comic for you.  It's a deep and thoughtful take on a character who needs to be in deft hands but usually hasn't been.

Nextwave: Agents of Hate – Warren Ellis.  As comics matured and moved out of the silver age, a few things became inevitable.  People like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Warren Ellis showed us that comics might have started out as male power fantasies, they could be other things to.  Lots of other people tried to copy them.  Or tell "mature", "gritty", "dark", "complicated" stories.  Most people failed, and failed horribly.  What we got was often worse than mere power fantasy.  Nextwave is the polar opposite of these things, I am happy to report.  Nextwave is not, to quote, about Learning and Character Arcs and Morals and Hugs.  It is about things blowing up and people getting kicked.  It is about healing America by beating people up.  It's Stephen Chow meets vintage action Arnie at the drive in.  It features violence against broccoli, robots, sort of "other beings" and the six greatest two-page panels (lain out back to back) in the history of comics.  Did I mention explosions and kicking? It is especially about THINGS BLOWING UP and PEOPLE GETTING KICKED.  All of the delight you might have once felt when rising on Saturday morning to begin the ritual viewing of cartoons but later discovered was fake because it turned out all of those beloved cartoons were bad?1  It's real, and it exists in Nextwave.

Wytches – (Scott Snyder and Jock) – horror series that debuted this year.  What would you trade to the things out in the woods for immunity to cancer, or prolonged life (while looking young and fit)?  Their price is high.  The first trade is out, and proved to be an interesting twist on a this very old formula.

Atomic Robo – Brian Clevenger (writer and co-creator) and Scott Wegener (artist and co-creator). Now available as a free web comic (Volume 1 Chapter 1).   I guess I might try to describe Atomic Robo as a golden age comic done in a 21st century style.   It's not gritty or dark but it's gleefully ridiculous, often thoughtful, sometimes touching.  Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne battle evil in all it's forms throughout the decades (often with nods to the age in the process).  Features one of the greatest comic book villains ever, bar none.   If you had been 15 when finding Atomic Robo you would have immediately moved to set all of your table top gaming in it's universe (unless you were doing it in the Planetary universe instead, which is understandable).

Selling out: you can support us by purchasing any of the above through Amazon using our affiliate link over on the right.  If for some reason one of these is not available through the store let me know and we'll add it.  Or just order it on your own, that's cool too. Even better if you have a fun local place you can go through.  Tell them we said hello.


A Hot Tip on Cue from the Swabbie Hobby Lobby

An update about the True Authorship of the Pirate Resignation Letter– now with 100% more Angus scrotum:

Back in April, in the comment thread of a post about our recondite plans for global dominion, a Popehat visitor using the nick "Will Nobilis" seemed to claim authorship of the well-known Pirate Resignation Letter. In one comment, Will Nobilis wrote,

"…a random web search led me to find out Ken and Patrick (and someone named Mike) wrote about my pirate resignation letter…."

This claim surprised me, so I poked around for other posts by Will Nobilis, and, behold!, appended to Ken's variant of "The Nymph's Reply" there was the following humblebrag from 2011:

"I am glad to see it has made it to a site I frequently enjoy reading and I hope it brought you as much amusement as it did for me to write it and send it to my bosses back then."

In Will's claim I detected a whiff of Alvarez. So I asked him to clarify. I haven't bothered to grep the logs for a visit from him to that page since then, but we haven't noticed his nick or IP since. Whatevs….

This little episode is what prompted my recent post on The Origin of the Pirate Resignation Letter. A few years ago, by the usual means, I had traced the PRL back as far as the early aughties–specifically, to the third of May 18082001–and had come up with a tentative attribution: "As far as I've been able to tell through clever googling in my favorite search engine, the renowned and much beloved Pirate Resignation Letter was written by Chris Castle…." This Castle chap had posted in a forum, now defunct, under the nick "The Bartender" and had stated that

"In the interest of disclosure I should note …[that t]he entirety of the letter was not drafted by solely myself[.] I prefer to think of myself as the 'Producer' of the document".

As if summoned by low-tier conjuration, a Popehat commenter named "The Bartender" bearing email and IP affinity to Castle turned up to comment on the thread (without disclaiming credit): "Thank you for finding this!…" In neither case did the drinkslinger cited a source.

Anyhow, I don't mean to get exercised, but the pilates thickens: there's new evidence that may set the record straight. For comes now a future reader of Popehat, the humble, scoundrel-hatin' Rob G——-, who intimates that all the preceding claimants, real or imagined, are right bastards, and who adduces credible evidence to support his own authorship. He confirms that he was not posting as "Will Nobilis" and that he ain't "The Bartender". By email, RG explains:

A friend of mine sent me a link to a recent post you guys made about the supposed "original" author of the pirate resignation letter.  (To wit:  She suggested I send you a note and square the issue – because I indeed wrote the pirate resignation letter in the winter of 2000.

I've been gratified for over a decade that it's been re-posted and reused more than a few times, but I don't believe I've ever before seen someone attempt to claim authorship, until now.  As such, I direct your attention to the following link on the Internet Wayback Machine:

As a bit of background, I was a miserable IT guy at Merrill Lynch back in the 1990's, and during the waning moments of my career I took to writing resignation letters as a bit of a hobby.  Two of the ones I wrote I later forwarded on to, and the pirate letter was the one I actually did use as my resignation letter from Merrill in December of 2000.  The "Chris" mentioned in the letter was my boss at the time, a guy named Chris O——-, and the word "porcine" was actually "bovine" in the original letter.  (When you work for a company with a large, scrotum-displaying bull as its logo, it's obvious to see the reasons for my use of the term.)  The eventual recipient of my actual resignation letter was a gentleman named John F——-, who had, at time of receipt, long been convinced of my eccentric incompatibility with Merrill.

Someone sent me a link years ago to a reply I suppose you guys did – it was droll and appreciated.  I don't really want any notoriety or "credit," but I wanted to set the record straight – I don't like liars.


Rob G——-
(I have truncated names to protect the privateeracy of the parties embroiled.)
Thanks to Mr. G——- for providing this info and a link to what seems to be the earliest extant occurrence of the PRL. If anyone can show just cause why this resignation letter and this author cannot lawfully be joined together, let him parley now or forever walk the plank.

Origin of the Pirate Resignation Letter

As far as I've been able to tell through clever googling in my favorite search engine, the renowned and much beloved Pirate Resignation Letter was written by Chris Castle and delivered to James Bear (deceased), former managing partner of Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP.

After using the letter, Castle shared it with his friend, user "Otter Von Pop" of the (now defunct) forum, and that user posted it on 17 October 2003 both as a forum post and as a Word doc attachment.

Later that morning, Chris Castle, posting as "The Bartender" confirmed the story and reported on the (first ever!) recipient's humorless (or brilliantly funny!) reply.

Harvested from the past and hosted right here on Popehat is that original forum thread:

Original Pirate Resignation Letter Thread

Enjoy this bit of net.history! And if you have anything to add about the people or circumstances, please share what you know in the comments.

UPDATE: There's a new pretender to the helm!

Wolfman Jack Killed More People Than Hitler, Stalin, And Genghis Khan Combined

Stephen Hawking thinks that it's a bad idea to contact alien civilizations:

Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact. …

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

While I agree that any aliens reaching the stars are likely to be similar to humans or worse, meaning chauvinistic and rapacious but more technologically advanced, the problem is that we've been contacting alien civilizations since the 1920s through commercial radio, which bleeds off into space.  The signals from Mexican border radio stations of the 1950s, designed to be heard loud and clear in Chicago and New York, are already introducing aliens to Buddy Holly and Little Richard, and will continue to do so forever.

And aliens can't dance.  "Bob" help us all.

For Your Friday Time Spending Pleasure

It can't be wasting time if it feels good to do it, right?

Obey the Game is the latest flash game effort from thoughtful author John (previous interesting efforts include: Achievement Unlocked and This is the Only Level).  The other games I mentioned offered some interesting if shallow looks at certain kinds of game mechanics.  Obey the Game is cleverer and more fun to boot.  The game places you in a series of challenges, each needing to be beaten before a short timer expires.  The goal is displayed in the center of the screen (e.g. "use the stairs" on a level with several spiked platforms and, yes, a stair case).  Follow the instructions and you advance to the next level.  Consecutive wins will net extra lives.  Some of the challenges are arcadish and they get harder as you go.  Simple right?  Well, the game (randomly?  I don't know) will sometimes tell you to "disobey", which means doing the opposite.  Don't take the stairs (dying is appropriate here!).  Don't collect the coins.  Stay alive (on the suicide level, natch). The only thing that costs a life is failing to obey (or, if the game so orders it, disobey) the goal.  The challenge escalates quickly often meaning a split second decision wins or loses the level.  The game is surprisingly fun.

Secondly, we have Elona Shooter .  A castle defense game based on the fascinating rogue like of the same name.  It features different classes, leveling and skill gain, lots of structures to build up in town which do different things, loot collecting.  It's difficult but pretty fun.  Hunter and Rogue are the suggested starting classes (both get an immediate helper you'll want to replace ASAP.  The hunter gets a bow gun, they rule.  The rogue is a money making machine).  You can earn achievements to help you on the current and subsequent play-throughs (if you're a masochist; I am).

Spiderweb on game sales, part the second

Jeff Vogel has his second in a two part blog post detailing some of the cost and sales numbers for Spider Web's games (part the first). It's pretty fascinating even though he doesn't hand out every last detail. It also shows how leveraging online distribution allows a game maker to benefit from the long tail. Geneforge 4, the game detailed, is not yet profitable but is on the cusp. And is a sure thing to be a long-term money earner even if it's not spectacular by indie standards (which are irrelevant by the money-hat-making standards of someone like Blizzard or even the money-bracelet-making standards of Valve).  It costs Spiderweb software nothing to offer Geneforge 4 alongside all of its other games.  Here's hoping it sells at a steady rate from now until the stage 4 zombie outbreak Popehat has predicted for 2016, and that he and his are able to weather those trying times and begin making games anew as the remnants of society begin to pick up the pieces (we will need diversions to help ease the burden of the horrors that we came through, of course).

[Read more…]

Sometimes The Cliche Is Right

Geeksite extraordinaire Topless Robot ran a contest to identify the stupidest lack of sensible and obvious technology displayed in Sci-Fi. And of course the lack of seat belts in Star Trek wins.

And what about Worf? He doesn't even get a chair. There he is, at the back of the proverbial bus, and there's no chair. So he's on his feet pretty much 24/7 staring at the back of Picard's chrome dome, while there's a tireless android up front, sitting in a chair. Is it because he black/Klingon?

I actually sort of preferred some of the other entries. For instance:

Why no USB ports in Robocop? Imagined dialogue:

Q: How should this robot cop we invented interface with other computers?
A: A sharp 10 inch spike.
Q: Do PCs even have a port for a 10 inch spike?
A: PCs? umn hello it's 1987, we don't have high tech shit like PCs… err well we do but…but… Our MAINFRAMES have always had 10 inch spike ports.