Missed Opportunities

There are some games that immediately grab me, shake me by the collar and yell “PLAY ME!” in my face. And yet for various reasons, I never seem to get a chance to play them. Castle Falkenstein is one of those games. The first time I read it, I fell in love, and sometimes I pick it back up and reread it (although my copy is completely falling apart at this point) and feel that love all over again.

Nine Worlds is another game that I’ve fallen for immediately, but never played. (I would link to the Nine Worlds website, but it’s down at the time of writing.) I own a copy of the original printing, but I’ve always intended to get the revised printing (with a better binding). Because it looked doubtful I’d have a opportunity to play it, though, I always put buying the revised version off. Which was a big mistake, because Matt Snyder, the designer and publisher, is getting out of the business and won’t be selling his games or making them available in any way. Nine World is out of print, and at this point, Matt says it will never be printed again. Damn.

I know Matt has his reasons, and I assume they’re good ones, but this makes me sad. I took it for granted that opportunities don’t always last. And he we have another missed one for me.

(It just occurred to me: Castle Falkenstein also went out of print, and both games use playing cards rather than the more typical dice. Huh.)

Heroes in Black and White

The mid-to-late-1980s was the beginning of something new. I had been a comics fan as far back as I could remember, but I had always bought my comics from whatever drug store or convenience store was around. But in the mid-80s, I bought an issue of a magazine about comics (I can’t remember which one) that had a cover feature about “alternative comics.” I was living in Joliet, IL at the time, and I found a store there that was devoted to comics. Devoted to comics! I was amazed! I started buying comics that didn’t come from Marvel or DC: Cerebus, Nexus, The Badger, American Flagg!, DNAgents, normalman…and Zot!

All of these new comics impressed me and influenced me, expanded my notion of comics and stories. But Zot! was something else. At a time when I was growing up and finding the world to be a lot more complicated than I’d thought, Zot! took me back to my innocent youth. Zachary “Zot” Paleozogt was everything I wanted to be: confident, charming, relentlessly cheerful and optimistic. He lived in a world of my dreams, a parallel Earth filled with Art Deco buildings and retrofuturist flying cars. The 10-issue color series was one of my favorite comics of the time.

My friend Chad recently sent me a copy of Scott McCloud‘s Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection, collecting issues #11-36. After a few years off, McCloud returned to writing and drawing Zot!, only this time the comics were in black and white, focusing more and more on complex stories and the “real world” of our Earth. In its entire run, Zot! went through a huge, impressive shift in plot, tone and storytelling.

My love for Zot! is intense. It’s not just the retrofuture world Zot comes from, although that does give me a huge kick. It’s not just the character of Zot, although I do love that guy. It’s the whole tapestry: Zot’s sort-of-girlfriend, Jenny, and her complicated inner feelings; Woody, the nerd blossoming into a really nice guy; the fun, loud supervillains Bellows, the Blotch and the Devoes; the tragic supervillain Dekko; the sinister, creepy 9-Jack-9; the mix of fairly traditional superheroics and down-to-earth realism, comedy and tragedy; the teen angst; the scenes of high school kids playing RPGs. Zot! touches on so many things that have been important to me, the fears and anxieties, the hopes and dreams. It fills me with joy and sings in my heart.

Thank you, Chad, for sending this collection to me and reminding me how much I love this comic. Thank you, Scott McCloud, for writing and drawing Zot! And for the rest of you: go read Zot! if you haven’t already. It probably won’t touch you the same way it touches me, but it really is quite wonderful.

From the Ashes Shall Rise…

I first started blogging in 2001. I called the blog, and the domain, “goblin cartoons,” for no good reason except I like the name and it seemed to fit with…well, stuff in my head. After some years of blogging, I felt like I was running out of things to say, except when it came to libraries. I decided to remake my blog into “the goblin in the library” and focus exclusively (well, almost) on libraries and technology.

It’s been a few years, and I’m feeling once again like I need to change things up a bit. I wouldn’t want to grow stale and crusty, would I? I’m blogging about library and tech matters over at the LSW blog, so I’m going to go back to blogging over more general matters here. I’ve felt lately like I have a head full of dreams, so don’t be surprised to find those dreams leaking out here. If you’re a library person and you want to stick around for talk about comics, games, books, movies and other fancies, I’m glad to have you here. If you feel like bailing, there will be no hard feelings on my part.

OK, are we ready? I’m going to throw the switch. Let’s see what happens!