Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: A more detailed comparison of Perth CBD's comic shops

So I had a lot more free time today as it is my last day in Perth and I didn't have anything concrete planned for the day. So I decided to revisit all the comic and pop culture shops in Perth again, except Tokyo Underground.

Spent more time at Empire Toys, browsing through the racks of graphic novels and manga in greater detail. Afterwhich I went to Quality Comics quickly, then visited Fantastic Planet for the first time. My last stop, later in the afternoon, was at Comiczone, before coming back to the hotel to rest and relax before heading off to the airport to catch the flight back to Melbourne.

Now that I've visted the four shops that sell graphic novels, here are my opinions and comparisons between the shops.

Please note, before anyone gets heated up arguing for or against one shop, this is entirely MY opinion based on the products that were available in each shop, shop space, variety of products, etc. Even though I returned to most shops for a second day, I've really only spent perhaps half an hour tops in each shop. Also, apart from the "hi/bye" greetings, I've only really interacted with the person working at Quality Comics, chatting about comics.

Quality Comics has easily the largest shop space. It had a huge variety of graphic novels and single issues, and also sold a number of different manga and DVDs. Not enough manga that I'd go back to purchase specific titles I'd be after because there wasn't enough variety. The shop assistant who engaged me in conversation was extremely helpful, friendly and knowledgeable, which is always a plus!

Quality Comics seemed to have best and lowest prices. There were heaps of back issues and I really liked the fact that the displayed single issues and graphic novels were all coverface-up, that is, you could see the front covers displayed as opposed to having to tilt your head to one side to check out what graphic novel it was from the book's spine. This makes it really easy to see if there was something that one is particuarly after; perhaps the comics can be displayed this way because of the huge amount of space in the shop.

Comiczone, while having a smaller space size, certainly used it very well. The majority of the shelved graphic novels couldn't be displayed coverface-up and you had to identify graphic novels by the book spine, but the latest and most popular graphic novels were all displayed so that you can see the front cover. It works well this way too because not only does it save space, but it's not always very often that someone would be looking for an old graphic novel...and if they were, they could always ask the people working in the shop, who appeared extremely friendly just like I remembered the last time!

The single issues were also displayed coverface-up. The difference between Comiczone and the rest, and this is a really good thing that I like, was the fact that they didn't put barcode pricetags on the graphic novel/single issue (or protective sleeve); the pricetag is actually on the shelf itself, keeping the comic free from blemishes! As you can imagine, this would mean that they would need a very organised and tidy shelving system, which they had. The other shops also had a very good shelving system, but I think Comiczone's stands out.

They also had quite a number of single back issues, though not as many as Quality Comics. And they were still giving out free button-badges! I didn't grab any this time around though. And Comiczone certainly seems to also support local comics and local comic creators; from memory I believe Ben Templesmith is an avid supporter of Comiczone (he buys his comics here too, perhaps, if Mr Templesmith DOES indeed purchase comics?) and I saw the business card of a Paul Spencer, who I believe is a local comics letterer.

Empire Toys had about the same shop space as Comiczone but a lot more product. Everything was organised neatly into product type; there was an aisle specifically for toys and action figures, another for graphic novels and one more for manga. They even had a specific section for anime/Japanese merchandise and products and one for DVDs!

Empire Toys had the most variety of manga titles and I know if I were to look for a specific manga title or back issue, that would be the first place I would start as it would be more likely that I'd find it at Empire Toys. They also sold a variety of animated/comic-related/pop culture-related DVDs, the most of all the shops that I'm comparing.

They didn't have a lot of single issues though; those that were available were of titles by "mainstream" creators like My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way's Umbrella Academy, Stephen King's Dark Tower and Joe Hill's Locke and Key. It also seemed that the graphic novels here were the most expensive of the shops compared.

Fantastic Planet specialises in selling science fiction novels, so as you can imagine, it had the smallest shop space and most of the product were novels. They did have a small graphic novel section though, and there was a table in the middle of the shop space with some of the more famous graphic novels displayed on the table.

Most of the graphic novels they had were by acclaimed comic authors like Alan Moore; Watchmen, Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Top 10; Frank Miller; Daredevil, Sin City; and Neil Gaiman; Sandman. They also sold acclaimed series like Preacher. So not a lot of variety if you're after graphic novels, but it certainly catered to those sci-fi lovers who wanted to dabble in the graphic novel medium.

So which is the best shop? Well, that's the beauty of it...there IS no best shop. Each shop had its own key strengths and would appeal to different demographics. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

If I were after manga or toys/action figures, I'd go to Empire Toys.

If I were after science fiction novels, I'd go to Fantastic Planet.

And I'd be happy to go to either Quality Comics or Comiczone for my single issues and graphic novels; probably Quality Comics if I'm looking for old back issues/graphic novels, and Comiczone for comic-related products such as busts.

If you're living in Perth and are a comic book fan, you're certainly spoilt for choice! It's good being a comic book fan in Perth.

The return of Captain America is imminent!

Start counting down, ladies and gents, because after more than two years, Steve Rogers is set to return to the Marvel 616 Universe (that's the regular Marvel Universe for those who aren't in the know)!

The American icon returns in issue #600...how can the numbering system jump from the #40s to #600 you wonder? Well, Marvel are going back to the original numbering system and the return issue would be Cap's 600th issue, if you add up all the issues from the various series.

Ed Brubaker's run on the current Captain America series has been hailed as one of the greatest ever and even though I don't buy the single issues of the regular series (I'm awaiting for the Omnibus instead...already have Volume One which reprints the first 25 issues of Brubaker's run on the title), I'll be sure to run out to grab Captain America #600!

The article about Steve Rogers' return is featured here on the Marvel.com website:

Reborn Revealed

Monday, June 15, 2009

Perth Comic Shops! Part Deux

So here I am in Perth again...six weeks short of having first come here two years ago! Of course, without it needing to be said, I absolutely had to check out the Perth comic shops, despite spending about half a day less here, compared to the last trip.

I certainly remember a couple of comic shops from my last visi, both located along Hay Street in the Perth CBD: Comicszone and Quality Comics.

I also remember there were quite some heated arguments regarding which was the better Perth comic shop in the nearly two years since I posted up the original blog entry, Perth Comic Shops! .

I didn't realise my innocent blog entry would open up such a huge can of worms, but everyone's entitled to their opinions and there didn't seem to be anything deragatory or too inflammatory so there was no need to cull any comments. Those comments are still there for anyone who wants to join in the debate:

Comments from visitors after the original blog entry

Thankfully, there was no unwanted negative exposure of my little blog...and I still maintain it's a VERY little blog that hardly anyone ever visits...I have this blog because I love my comics and video games and pop culture and whenever I want to post something up for posterity's sake, this is the best place for me to express my opinions.

Anyway! Enough of that. By the time anyone reads this new blog entry, I'd probably have been back in Melbourne for a couple of weeks (or more likely, months), happily continuing my comic-shopping-patronage with Classic Comics.

Of course, Classic Comics doesn't have everything I'm looking for and when I can't get something from there or Comics R Us or Minotaur, when in a different country or state, since I'm already compelled to go visit the other comic book shops in that country/state/city, might as well go hunting for those comics that I can't get to add to my collection, hey?

I knew exactly where Comicszone (I seem to remember it being known as The Comic Zone back in 2007...a name change prehaps?) and Quality Comics was along Hay Street, but I wanted to see if I could find any other comics and pop culture shops in the Perth CBD. So I did some research via the trusty yellow pages AND just taking a walk along Hay Street on Sunday evening.

There were five such shops in the Perth CBD, four along Hay Street itself and one along Shafto Lane:

Comiczone - 572 Hay Street
Quality Comics - 872 Hay Street
Empire Toys - 856 Hay Street
Tokyo Underground - The Basement, 816 Hay Street
Fantastic Planet - Shop 8, Shafto Lane

I also saw a sign for Infinite Planet, with Boba Fett on the sign itself, but I believe this shop has been replaced by Tokyo Underground/Freaks + Geeks, since they share the exact same address. Or maybe it's the exact same shop that has just had a name change! Not quite sure there.

Anyway, Comiczone and Quality Comics focused on selling comics and graphic novels. Comiczone seemed to also sell quite a number of pop culture/movie related toys; there were movie Watchmen action figures/toys as well as some busts in the shop display window. Quality Comics a bigger store space and seemingly more comics/graphic novels on display!

The one thing that was a change from two years ago, which surprised me, was that the Quality Comics single issues and graphic novels (in both the tradepaperback and hardcover variety) were on the whole cheaper than Comiczone, which certainly didn't seem to be the case two years ago when I was here.

I just did some very quick price comparisons and the new single issues and graphic novels were a bit cheaper at Quality Comics. Not quite sure whether this was due to the large "under new management" sign that was on the wall as I was walking down the steps into Quality Comics...perhaps in the two years I was away, Ben Templesmith was right in his comment in suggesting that having more than one comic shop in Perth would be good, competition-wise! Hey, with freedom of choice, the people that would win out would be the patrons.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find what I was looking for; to be honest, I doubt I'd be able to find it anywhere else, so this is certainly not a knock on either shops' stocks. The stuff I'm after is pretty much impossible to find nowadays, which is WHY I cannot find them in the Melbourne shops (or online) and why I actually have to go elsewhere in an attempt to find them:

The Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol.1 Hardcover
The Absolute Authority Vol.1 Hardcover
New X-Men Omnibus Hardcover
Absolute Planetary Hardcover
Absolute Danger Girl Hardcover
Alias Omnibus Hardcover
Stardust Hardcover
Young Avengers Hardcover

Heck, these aren't even available on Amazon and some of the more famous American comic book shops (unless one's willing to pay exorbitant prices for them), so I wasn't really expecting a miracle that any of the Perth comic shops would be stocking them.

I did pick up the following books from Quality Comics: new Batman and Robin #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (since I had read that it was just selling out everywhere...this wouldn't even be someting I'd consider as part of my grab list normally!), The Sentry TPB that had its price slashed by about half, School Rumble Volume 9 (manga), which I haven't been able to find in Melbourne, and Boys Be Volume 16 (manga) which was cheap at $5!

The one thing that really impressed me was the the guy serving me at Quality Comics engaged me in a conversation regarding the Morrison and Quitely team, which I quite enjoyed. Don't get enough opportunities to talk about comics to my other friends, so I always welcome a comics or pop culture related chat!

So I've had two extremely positive experiences, one each at Comiczone and Quality Comics. As someone who's travelled all the way here from Melbourne, let me just say it's really impressive and you guys are doing a fantastic job!

I didn't expect to find anything but toys, action figures and the like at Empire Toys, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw a huge collection of graphic novels on the shelves! Couldn't find stuff from the list of comics I was after above (once again, not a knock against the shop!) and the prices were a bit more expensive than the same items sold at Quality Comics.

Tokyo Underground reminded me a lot of Tamarket back in Melbourne in that it sold anime and Japanese-related products...lots of Nintendo products there! They also sold quite a bit of costumes for the budding cosplayers out there! Got myself a blue mushroom (from Super Mario Bros) keychain for myself and a Totoro tote bag and a Totoro foldable-fan for Aeris.

Haven't gone to Fantastic Planet yet, and I don't think I'll make a trip there unless I have some free time. I certainly saw that they sold graphic novels but it seems like a shop that focuses more on selling sci-fi novels.

The variety of comic and pop culture shops in the Perth CBD itself is certainly extremely impressive! Perth comic book geeks: you guys are so lucky and I'm so envious of you! Variety is the spice of life and you can have your pick of shops...once again, the patrons are the winners!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Rhythm Heaven for Nintendo DS

When I was at Forest Hill last Thursday, purchased a new game by Nintendo for the DS: Rhythm Heaven (also known as Rhythm Tengoku in Japan):

I read a bit about this game from the previews in both Ultimate Nintendo Magazine and Official Nintendo Magazine, but while the premise seemed pretty keen and kooky, I didn't think it was something that I'd be spending my money on.

As one might already guess from the title "Rhythm Heaven", this game is a rhythm/music-type game where one had to coordinate one's actions with the stylus to the beat prompts on the screen. Think games like any of the Dance Dance Revolution games in arcades, the Guitar Hero line of games, Samba de Amigo on the Wii and one of my personal favourites, Elite Beat Agents on the DS.

I've been a huge fan of Elite Beat Agents ever since Dean introduced me to the game not long after I first purchased my DS Lite in 2007. There was something so unbelievable "attractive" about three Men-In-Black-esque secret agents using dance to solve mundane problems and eventually, save the world. The premise of the game might have been kooky, but the game played brilliantly!

After all, what other game would you be able to use your stylus to tap in time with the rhythmic beats of such classics like The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash", Earth, Wind and Fire's "September" and perhaps the most overplayed track of all in the game (at least by Aeris), The Village People's "YMCA"?

Ok, sure those tracks weren't the originals by the original groups/singers, and were just covers, but they were covers that were done pretty well! And who cares if the music wasn't original...it's the gameplay that matters! And Elite Beat Agents worked just brilliantly; to this day, I'm still aching to play the Japanese equivalent (and precursor to the English version of Elite Beat Agents): Ouendan!

So, a game like Rhythm Heaven, which was similar to Elite Beat Agents in so many ways...surely I would be purchasing this game right? Nah.

For one, I thought it would be just another run-of-the-mill rhythm game and wouldn't have anywhere close to the charm of Elite Beat Agents. Sure, it had more than just tap-tap-tapping, including flicking the stylus and "reverse-tapping", where you keep the stylus on the screen and pull it upwards to "hit" a beat, but surely that wouldn't be enough variation for me!

So I wasn't going to get the game. That is, until, I saw the TV advertisements for the game.

In fact, see for yourself!

This was the ad that convinced me the game would be fun enough to purchase! Add to the fact that someone from Ecogamer had found a pretty cheap release price of $34.95 at Target (most places had the game for sale at $44 which is a pretty good price already), so I was sold on the game!

So what's so good about the game? Well, it's fun. Really fun. I mean REALLY REALLY fun. It would seem like filling up robots with oil or returning ping pong balls and even being a "groupie" at a Japanese concert would be too weird for a game, but somehow, Nintendo have made Rhythm Heaven one of the hottest selling games ever with its simple but addictive mini-rhythm games!

Just the first game alone, while simple, hooked me onto the game. Called "Built to Scale", it involved you flicking the stylus when it reached the "So" portion of Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So. The next game, "Glee Club" is easily my favourite game so far. You're the third singer in a trio of singers and your mouth remains open...until the stylus touches the screen, which closes your singer's mouth. Cue a jazz song and you need to "sing" in time to the beat! If you don't, the two other singers in the trio give you the stink-eye.

I'm a bit iffy on the third game, "Fillbots", where you fill up a couple of robots on an assembly line with oil/fuel, but I really like "Fan Club", the fourth game, where you're a monkey groupie that needs to gee up the crowd by clapping your hands (by tapping the stylus) and basically making a monkey of yourself...which is quite appropriate because the groupies are all monkeys!

And then there's the 1st remix, which is a combination of the first four games, mixed up with a nice beat. I've only played the first six games, but already I'm having heaps of fun, and I think I'll be bringing this game with me when I go for a short holiday in Perth!

Incidentally, while on the topic, that means I'll probably get to visit the two fantastic Perth comic shops too. Just a quick aside and back to the review.

This game is too fun not to have. And at the cheap introductory price of $34.95 at Target (or $44 which is still pretty good, if the Target offer expires), you can find out why it's selling so well and why there's so much hype in Japan about this game! And you might as well get a nice 150 Club Nintendo points when you register this game with your Club Nintendo account.

So to leave you, just another Rhythm Heaven ad featuring Beyonce playing my favourite mini-game so far: Glee Club!

Built to Scale

Glee Club