AMAZING DETECTIVE ACTION COMICS: THE BEGINNING

I didn’t grow up writing.

In fact, in school I was much better at subjects like math, science, or geography, any subject really where creativity took a back seat to memorizing formulas or facts. Those were the classes that got me my exam exemptions that afforded me more time to ride my bike around my small town, checking out video stores (think PSN, Steam or XBL, only if they were physical places you had to visit) to see what the most recent games and movies were out to rent. I should probably clarify that by video stores, I also mean one video store, and a series of convenience stores and gas stations. In Harbour Grace, NL, the town I grew up, we didn’t have a Blockbuster, the closest we ever came was a Movie Gallery, a Blockbuster-lite store that arrived in 2004 which eventually closed in 2010 along with most other video rental businesses.

I wasn’t what you called a reader exactly either. I read what novels I had to read for school, but on my own time if I picked up a novel to read for fun, it wouldn’t be a well-regarded classic like Lord of the Rings, or something else that a teenager who loves nerdy things would read, but something I loved from another medium. Long story short my book shelf consisted of a lot of novelization: The Phantom (SLAM EVIL!), Mission: Impossible (teasing you about the upcoming game coming to Nintendo’s Ultra 64); Video game books such as the incredible piece of forgotten literature, Mortal Kombat by Jeff Rovin; or books based on comic book stories like Batman: Knightfall or The Death and Return of Superman. 

Comics were something that until recently I had a start and stop relationship with. Most of my knowledge of comic book universes and characters came from animated series and toy lines, so as a kid growing up in the 90’s, that meant running around the house in my Spider-Man pyjamas my nan bought me, pretending to swing on a dog leash attached to the closet door above the small set of stairs leading to the front door of my house, of course singing the classic theme song from the 60’s cartoon. Thinking about it now I remember loved it getting close to bed time because that meant I got to dress up like Spider-Man for a small time, compare that to now as an adult where the first thing I do when I get home is throw on some pj bottoms. Though tempted, I didn’t buy a Spider-Man onesie. No, really. I didn’t. Ask my roommates. I loved Spider-Man, also Batman, tuning into the feature-length film starring Adam West every Saturday and Sunday afternoon (someday’s you just can’t get rid of a bomb). This lead into the era of Tim Burton’s Batman films which then fed into the 90’s animated series before I switched over to the Marvel camp because of FOX Kids X-Men and Spider-Man.

Much like our video store situation, we didn’t have a comic book store, so comics came from, you guessed it, gas stations and drug stores. I have a lot of parts of series from big events, like X-Cutioner’s Song, because it was mysterious and couldn’t be read in stores thanks to the polybag it was sold in, complete with trading card. By the time I was mentally prepared to understand the complicated world of serialized comics, they up and got weird on me. After falling in love with Marvel comics thanks to their cartoon offerings, around 1995 or so, Peter Parker turned out to be a clone that was replaced by some guy named Ben Reilly, and the X-Men I knew like Gambit, Wolverine and Cyclops were replaced in favour of a strange new place called the Age of Apocalypse. No thank you. 

batman prodigal

The first trade I ever remember owning.

This led me to into the arms of DC, who were catering their stories towards new readers by relaunching a lot of their main characters with unique fresh takes. I can see how this may have been a huge middle-finger to a lot of long time comic readers, but to someone who didn’t know anything about Green Lantern, other than that he had a Super Powers toy that I didn’t have, it was much easier for me to grasp there being just one instead of a legion of them, and the same went for the Flash. Being a younger sibling, I also had a fond love of sidekicks, meaning my favourite book to read was Chuck Dixon’s run on Nightwing in the late 90’s. It was also much easier to get comics at that time as well, as what we consider a big city in Newfoundland, St. John’s, started getting comic book shops that got issues much faster than our stores. It also had these things called “graphic novels” that collected issues into one easy to digestible story, and made for terrific Christmas presents.

More so than comics, my favourite thing to read were magazines, primarily video game magazines like Nintendo Power or Electronic Gaming Monthly. In this digital age that we live in, it’s amazing how quickly news can happen and then arrive in your hands in an instant. I mean, if you’re reading this it’s because I’m afforded a space online where I can post stories like this one, news, reviews, pretty much anything I want to, really. That all being said, I wish people who are growing up today who take for granted just much how much information is available to them because of the internet could experience the joy of picking up a hefty magazine. I’m not talking about a magazine today that feels like a bona-fide pamphlet, I’m talking about a fat, fall of the year EGM stuffed with all the reviews of the best games coming out that you would want to put on your Christmas list, or what you would be playing into the next year and the one after that.

nintendo power 97

I loved new magazine day, going to the drug store magazine rack and eyeing the shiny, glossy covers promising fresh new screen shots of Zelda 64, years before its actual release and even before it actually became to be known as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or the first look at the newest Game Boy…IN COLOUR!!!. I mostly stuck with Nintendo Power leading up to the early 2000’s, because as someone who grew up in the Nintendo 64 era, not in the rose-coloured glasses age we’re in now where it was the greatest thing EVAR, it was tough going. Games were crazy expensive (Turok: Dinosaur Hunter when new was well over $100 in Canada) and the hit games took so long to come. It saddened me to pick up a competitor magazine, like EGM, that would have a previews section featuring so many pages with red tabs (for PlayStation games) featuring all of my favourite franchises from the NES and SNES era like MegaMan and Castlevania along side upcoming franchises like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, with about one page of green tabbed previews (indicating N64) with a few paltry screenshots of Quest 64 or Knife Edge: Nose Gunner, ya know, the classics.

Never once flipping through the pages of any video game themed publication did I ever think that something as amazing as playing and writing about video games all day with a staff of like-minded people could ever be a job, so when it came to graduating high school and entering the world of higher learning, I took what I felt was the “safe” route for future employment and entered the faculty of business administration. Hindsight they say, is 20/20, and if I could time travel to any fixed point in my life and fix anything, it would be my decision to go to university. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-education, as I know a lot of people who went to school and now have amazing careers and lives because of a post-secondary education. Even I would be sad erasing it from my life knowing I would lose a lot of fantastic memories of the “college (university) experience” as well as some great friends. It’s just that, and if you’re still with me at this point, thank you for staying, appreciate it, also I’m going to get real, no one should ever go to university thinking it will “enrich” their lives, because for a lot of people, it will de-rich them. Is de-rich a word? If it isn’t, it is now.

Derich (DE-RICH) (Def.) – To lose money due to a lack of job opportunities after graduating from a post-secondary institution combined with a feeling of crushing hopelessness as you buckle under substantial student debt.

I’m really happy for today’s youth, because there’s so many ways to learn and start a career without feeling like you have to go to university. Just look at YouTube celebrities who with just a camera, an internet connection and some recording software make millions of dollars doing something they normally paid to do. It’s. Crazy. I’d like to hope that my generation will be the last one where people are pushed into a college or university program because that it what’s expected of them. Personally I feel that I still probably would’ve went to school at some point, but not until I had figured out on my own terms what I felt was best for me. I didn’t find out what I really had a passion for until I was nearly done my program.

blair 2k2

A more handsome, optimistic, but still Spider-Man lovin’ guy before the rear world came and messed it ALL up.

The year is 2006, and these new fangled things called “podcasts” landed on my radar thanks to EGM magazine’s new online branch, the now defunct 1up.com. It was there that the staff put off a weekly show called the 1up Show where people for the first time could not only read articles in print or on a website and live the EGM experience, but see the staff’s working environment as they talked about all the latest games. It was like seeing people do what you and your friends did, only on film, and they got PAID to do this. To me, this was what people strived to do with their lives: Create a career doing something you absolutely loved. In my first few years post graduation, I often dreamed with it would be like to work at the Ziff Davis offices: filming segments for shows, appearing on podcasts, interviewing game makers, having people really listen to what I had to say about something I loved since I was a kid. That was until the bubble burst on a lot of online and print publications. Early 2009 brought devastating news that EGM would cease to exist and that most of the talent I had followed all lost their jobs, forcing them to leave for other publications or scramble for new careers. As the years rolled on, the media as I knew it slowly died, the last nail in the coffin perhaps being the closing of the once important Nintendo Power in late 2012.

Since graduating in 2007 I’ve always tried ways to become a successful content creator, though for those still with me, man, bravo, we should hang out sometime, this isn’t the Disney version of the tale where I beat the odds and make my dreams come true, far from it. My first attempt was on the 1up.com website, because if I was going to start somewhere, it was going to be on the website I loved the most. If you want to see the humble beginnings of this website, you can go HERE, as apparently my 1up.com page I haven’t worked on since 2009 still exists, go figure. Also don’t look for me with those Mario Kart DS and Planet Puzzle League friend codes, I don’t own those games any more. Some of my highlights from that page were winning an 100 word essay contest on the EGM Live podcast, not sure which week it was or even if it still exists, but it was early 2007 if you want to try to find it. Another would be a nice complement from Katie Fleming, who runs a Tomb Raider fan site and now works as a community manager for the Eternal Crusade game as part of the Warhammer franchise.

egm x-men

The end of an era…

It was around 2009 where I decided if I was to get the attention of anyone with my opinions, I would have to make it on my own and not knowing the first thing about web page design or most things technical, I turned to WordPress, the platform I’m still using today. I had huge goals for my page, but I was never really proud of how it looked and while I liked and was proud of a lot of the things I wrote, it still felt too similar to what every major publication and what everyone else was doing. At the end of day after all, what made me that much different from any other person writing a retro review of MegaMan 2, or posting a review of Klonoa on Wii? Little that I know that a game that year would set me on the path that would lead to the creation of this website. The game was Batman: Arkham Asylum.

As a kid, I didn’t have the resources available to tell me what games were good and bad, so I had to go by a game’s cover and what was written on the back of the box. This led me to rent out a lot of games based on things I knew. Hell, I still believe that I fell in love with MegaMan because of Captain N, and that I didn’t take Castlevania seriously because of the same show until the late 90’s/early 2000’s. As the year’s went on, licensed games like those from Konami and Capcom became the exception rather than the norm to the point I turned my nose up when I saw Batman: Arkham Asylum first previewed in the pages of one of the final EGM’s. I played REAL games after all, not terrible ones based on Batman.

Boy, if I could see me now.

It wasn’t until 2011 after the sequel Batman: Arkham City came out that it donned upon me what niche it was I could fulfill. I expected that after the release of Asylum that game makers would try to capitalize on the super hero craze, not only because of how good Asylum was, but because what was going on in pop culture, especially at the local cinema: Iron Man, The Dark Knight, there was even going to be an Avengers movie! So where were all the comic book games? Or perhaps maybe they were already out there waiting to be found. Game sites weren’t into the business of covering licensed games there readers/viewers didn’t really have that much interest in, so I started looking into it on my own and found that there was a lot of great comic book games just looking to have their moment in the spotlight. Sure, there’s a lot of bad ones, believe me, I know, but a lot of good ones also that no one were talking about.

The rest, as they say, is history.

For those who stuck around to the end of this, I thank you very much. It’s been a lot of fun taking this trip down memory lane and sharing how I got to where I am as well as with the origins of this website. I hope you also take away something from this, whether it’s a desire to create, tell a story of your own about your life, and especially to strive to what you want most out of life. Pieces like this will be in short order if you’ve liked this more than anything else that I’ve written, and for those who came for the comic book games, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you. No matter what life throws at me, I’m always thinking of ways to make this site the best resource for comic book video game fans and to reach out to people that don’t even know this page exists.

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