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Kid Dungeon Master’s Neighborhood Reign: Nostalgic Confession Inspired by “Die”

Die 1!

Teen RPG fan Solomon brings foreboding gameplay setup to Die #1. Art by Stephanie Hans, words by Kieron Gillen, letters by Clayton Cowles.

1. A Long-expected Party.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my annual comic book reviews included a promise of a future entry inspired by Die, the new Image Comics series by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans that I encapsulated like so:

What if you took the structure of Stephen King’s It, but instead of fighting a murderous super-clown, the kids and adults in their respective eras were reliving the ’80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon as a horror story, and the Big Bad was Tom Hanks from Mazes and Monsters turned into a truly mystical, manipulative interdimensional overlord?

Painted art by Stephanie Hans is like a high-end gallery showing on every page, while writer Kieron Gillen is engaging in ambitious, phenomenally detailed world-building, worrisome in its six-digit word count and rising. He’s exploring fantasy tropes and toying with them from within, but he’s also designed an entire RPG from the ground up to facilitate his vision, one that’s dredging up so many childhood memories for me — some I would dare label “definitive” in regard to my personal backstory — that I’ll need to devote a separate entry to this series in the near future. I have a lot of baggage to unpack here, and I blame Gillen for wheeling the baggage cart right up next to me.

I had the pleasure of meeting painter Stephanie Hans at this year’s C2E2, where I gave her the elevator-pitch version of this entry and she encouraged me to share it. I got a kick out of meeting Kieron Gillen at C2E2 2013, where we briefly chatted about his Britpop-magic fantasy Phonogram and he asked me which character I identified with most. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to it and was ashamed to have no answer, either prepared or improvised. I’m not used to pros at a con asking me a question beyond “Where are you from?”

(Having had time to think later, my answer came to me, obvious if twofold. As a young adult from 1989 to 2000 I imagined myself Seth Bingo, self-anointed tastemaker and DJ, bringing my boom-box and tapes/CDs to entertain at work after-hours — no requests allowed, sharing my collection with peers who just didn’t get me or my nightly playlist. For my life 2000-present I’ve been closer to Lloyd, engaging with music intellectually via long thinkpieces written only for the audiences in my head, but rarely physically and never socially, thus arguably denying its greatest powers. If only I could’ve written all that on an index card before approaching Gillen’s table. Or narrowed my answer down to just one of those two alienating dudes.)

The farther I’ve read into Die, the more I’ve found myself reflecting on my own experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, an integral part of my preteen years. It was a compelling confluence of entertainment and imagination. It was a big hit with the other kids who joined in. It also ushered in the end of my circle of childhood friends.

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Comics Update 2018, Part 4 of 5: My Year in Image

Image Comics 2018!

Cool covers from the past 15 months. Art by (clockwise from top left) Bill Sienkiewicz; Jason Howard; Nick Pitarra and Michael Garland; Alex Ross; Darick Robertson and Diego Rodriguez; and Jeff Lemire.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. Over the course of the next four entries…I’ll be sharing what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop — series and miniseries alike, budget permitting, broken down by publisher as of the very end of February 2019, including lists of 2018 works that are either done or dead to me.

Image Comics has come a long way since the days of the original seven founders. Though most of them don’t keep their hand in the medium on anything approaching a monthly basis anymore, other creators continue to flourish under their aegis, happy to have a publishing home that lets them prove there’s more to comics than superheroes and movies.

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Comics Update: My Current Lineup and 2017 Pros & Cons

Comics A-X!

All my 2017 singles divided and alphabetized from A to X but skipping V.

[WARNING: This entry turned out several leagues beyond epic-length and may be the wordiest entry in MCC history, but I wanted it out of my system, and all at once in a single-take infodump. And now it is. Mission accomplished.]

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually first on the chopping block. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

2017 certainly hasn’t been a boring year for discussions. In addition to undergoing a light-handed version of the anti-sexual harassment revolution that’s sweeping Hollywood, the comics field has seen DC’s Rebirth initiative still going strong on the learning curve from the “New 52” misfire. Meanwhile, the “Marvel Legacy” campaign — their fifth line-wide restart in eight years or so — was founded on the assumption that old folks like me and the Kids These Days are dying to watch comics regress to the ’70s and ’80s. So far they’ve been wrong and sales have nosedived on a number of titles. The cancellations that made room for this ploy have been followed in short order by still more cancellations of their usurpers. I’m still finding Marvel-labeled reading to my tastes, but I’m glad they’re not the only choices at my local comic shop.

For reference and maybe unconscious oblique insight, here’s what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop, series and miniseries alike, budget permitting, broken down by publisher as of the very end of December 2017:

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Comics Update: My Current Lineup and 2016 Pros & Cons

Comics 2016!

Eight comics a week times 52 weeks, plus a few extras from conventions and Free Comic Book Day…

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually the first ones culled. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

Anyway: time again for another set of lists with comics in them!

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Comics Update: My 2015 Faves and My Current Lineup

Archie!

After 37 years of collecting, 2015 was the year I first bought more than two Archie comics in a row. From the new Archie #1; art by Fiona Staples and Andre Szymanowicz.

Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually the first ones culled. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.

Anyway: time again for another list of lists with comics in them!

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C2E2 2015 Photos, Part 9 of 9: Random Acts of C2E2ing

C2E2 Sign!

That’s the signpost up ahead. Your next stop…

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I went to C2E2 and took photos! Other chapters in the series:

Part 1: Costume Contest Winners
Part 2: The Rest of the Costume Contest
Part 3: Edge of Deadpoolverse
Part 4: Might Marvel Costumes
Part 5: More Comics Costumes
Part 6: Mystery Science Costume Theater 3000
Part 7: Last Call for Costumes
Part 8: Stars of Comics and Screens

Today’s feature: moments from the show floor, the lines we lived through, the personalities we haven’t already mentioned, and fleeting glimpses of our two-day descent into a legion of fans thriving in a playground of heroes, villains, idols, art, commerce, and an eye-popping panoply of pop-culture Easter eggs as far as the eye could see. That’s mostly because I felt like taking more pics of our surroundings than usual, just to see what came of it.

Right this way for the C2E2 2015 season finale!

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