My Trip to Mile High Comics!

Mile High Comics
The world famous Mile High Comics Warehouse Store. Yes, it’s that big. Click the image to open a full-sized version and get up close and personal.

I originally wrote this back on Jun 29, 2015 and saved it in my drafts. I just found it and figured I’d go ahead and publish it. So without further ado… 

When I was much younger and used to ride my bike a couple miles away to the local Drug Fair or Safeway to buy my comics, there was no such thing as a “comic book store”. Comic Book Collecting wasn’t really a hobby, it was just something you did. Comic book conventions were mythical events taking place in exotic locations like New York and San Diego, (and from the photos, mainly in basements). So there were a handful of names you were familiar with if you were one of those people who was seeking out comics in the 70s. Chuck Rozanski/Mile High Comics was one of those names. I grew up sending out self-addressed stamped envelopes to him and others, and including my quarter, and getting the latest “list” of comics for sale along with prices. Prior to the invention of the Comic Book Price Guide, one of the only ways to gauge the “value” of a book was to see what mail order comic book companies like Chucks were charging for books. This was where I first learned that Amazing Fantasy 15, Fantastic Four 48, Showcase 4, and a host of other books were considered “key” books and commanded higher prices than other books around the same time.

This was how I learned about comic book collecting.

By the time the late 70s and early 80s rolled around, word of the Edgar Church Mile High Collection began circulating. I’d hear people talking about the collection Chuck had purchased and the unheard of quality of the books. Mile High Comics and Chuck were legendary among the small circle of people I knew who were into what was becoming a real hobby.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, but one of the few places that have eluded me have been Denver and for some reason or another I’ve never had a chance to travel there. As luck would have it, I recently spoke at a conference in Denver, had a couple hours free, and the hotel I was staying at had free bicycles that they’d let you check out to ride around town. You couldn’t ask for a better combination of enablers. I was finally going to get a chance to visit the World Famous Mile High Comics Jason Street Warehouse.

The ride from the hotel was about 20 minutes or so to get to the other side of the city and over to the area where the warehouse was. It was a warehouse district (duh!) with plenty of other facilities nearby… with a very distinct smell… I remembered that Colorado had recently legalized weed. You never forget that smell.

You can’t prepare yourself for what you see when you walk into the warehouse. You think you can, you have this image in your head about what you think it’s going to look like, but it wildly exceeds whatever you’re thinking. Right off the bat there’s a display case filled to the brim with gold and silver age keys. Amazing Fantasy 15, Showcase 4, etc… I was mesmerized.

The size and expanse of the place is mind-boggling. You can just walk and walk and walk and never see the same thing twice. Walls of variants, toys, collectibles, and row after row of comics. I’ve been to comic book conventions that have been held in smaller spaces with significantly fewer comics available. There’s a section of trade paperbacks that is larger than even the largest comic book shops I’ve seen. It’s massive.

Chuck wasn’t there the day I arrived, but he had been in and out and it appeared that I had just missed him, so I spent some time talking with the amazing staff. They were kind, patient (I was such a tourist), and even invited me “upstairs” to a loft area overlooking the whole warehouse where I was able to take the panoramic photo above.

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to finally get a chance to visit the mecca of comic book collecting and I’m here to tell you, it did NOT disappoint. If you love comic books, and you’re ever within driving distance of Denver, you owe it to yourself to go. It’s something you’ll never forget.

Heroes Con – Part 2 – It’s Friday!

Heroes Con officially kicked off Friday morning, but for me, it began a day earlier. We packed the cars (the wife and kids were continuing on to the beach for a couple of weeks after the weekend) to drive up Thursday. Wanting to maximizing the time we had at the convention I booked our rooms for Thursday through Sunday, a serendipitous bit of foresight that I’ll be sure and repeat next year, so we could get up early and hit the ground running on Friday after a good night’s sleep. After a shitty drive up – thanks in large part to an accident that turned I-85 into a parking lot for a good hour and a half – we made it to the hotel with enough time to grab our badges and enjoy the pre-opening night bash. Food trucks, a band, and another great opportunity to mingle with a lot of the attending creators, it’s something you definitely want to make plans to attend if you’re gonna go next year. A nice evening unwinding, decompressing, and walking around was a perfect way to kick off the weekend.

Bright and early Friday morning, with everyone well rested, refreshed and badges in hand, we made our way across the street to the convention center. Once again, the decision to arrive a day early and collect badges was another in a string of inadvertent “best decisions we made” over the course of the weekend. The lines were staggering. The only other time I’ve seen THAT many people lining up for geekdom was last year at Dragon Con, and it was the same situation, the ticket line. Since we had our passes, we were able to move past the “I need to get a ticket” line and make our way to the end of the “we already have our passes line”. This line stretched from the entrance around the inside of the convention center, up the stairs and began to make its way around the upper deck. Not a short line, but once the doors opened, it moved along rapidly.

First up was to begin cashing in on that email equity I had worked on the month or two prior. I made a beeline to Ed Piskor’s table and handed over my sketchbook. A fan of “Hip Hop Family Tree” since I began reading it on Boing Boing, Ed was top of my list. I desperately wanted an Afrika Bambaatta sketch by Ed and had worked the better part of the last year on getting the ever-elusive artist to agree to do a commission at the convention. I don’t even think he had completely unpacked all his stuff when I bounded up to his table and introduced myself, “HiI’mJeffSmallWe’veSpokenOverEmail I’mTheGuyWhoWantedTheBambattaSketch IThinkYou’reTheGreatestGuy AndI’mAHugeFanOfHipHopFamilyTree!”. He smiled and I settled down a bit. We chatted about the book, his plans, the upcoming third volume and his experiences since publishing the anthology series and I quickly realized why I loved the guy so much. He’s warm, genuine, authentic, and every bit the person he seems. I handed over my sketchbook and began wandering around, getting my bearings and figuring out where the rest of the people on my list were sitting.

I caught up with Wilfredo Torres, artist on one my favorite books out currently, “Jupiter’s Circle”. Connected with Evan “Doc” Shaner, who draws the most amazing Captain Marvel you’ve ever seen. I found Mike Maihack, Klaus Jansen, Tim Sale, Andrew Robinson, Arthur Adams, Geoff Darrow, Craig Rousseau, Babs Tarr, and Kristopher Anka. I stopped by Evan Dorkin’s table. He had apparently had a pretty rough trip into town and was a little flustered trying to unpack and spread out as the convention was opening up. He was a charming curmudgeon as people came up to the table to say hi and get their items signed. He was wearing a wrist brace, made several references to having a sore hand and begged off doing any signing or sketches first thing until he had a chance to settle in. I graciously obliged with as much empathy as I could muster. I felt bad for the guy and made a mental note to steer clear and come back around Saturday or Sunday when he had an opportunity to get collected warm up a little.

The day flew by. We wandered around the floor, met creators, took photos with Cosplayers (So many Deadpools!) and bought some fun things from a couple of the vendors. I wasn’t ready to dig into comics just yet, that’ll wait for the last day. There were some great lunch spots close by, so it was easy to drop off sketchbooks, and wander across the street to grab some pizza with the kids, who were busy checking their Nintendo DSes every few minutes to meet another set of 10 convention-goers in Mii Plaza.

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As the day wound down, I began to get excited for the evening. I was notified earlier that afternoon by an email from the staff that my VIP Stan Lee experience would begin at 6 over at the Hilton, which was a block over. We made our way back to the Marriott to drop off sketchbooks, decompress and relax for a little while. The wife and kids made dinner plans (The Friday evening experience was reserved for those who paid, family could participate in signatures and photos the next day, but the actual meet and greet was limited to a very small room) and I trekked over to the Hilton to meet Stan Lee. Not knowing how many people were signing up for the full VIP experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect walking in. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the meet and greet was limited to 25 people and we had the small room all to ourselves! There was a bar available for people who wanted cocktails (I grabbed a seltzer water, natch) and hors d’oeuvres spread out to snack on while we waited for Stan to arrive.

We chatted among ourselves, I met some great people, we traded stories, and a few minutes after I got there Stan’s assistant came in and prepped us for Stan’s arrival. We could ask anything we wanted (questions that could put Stan in an awkward position regarding upcoming movie spoilers were obviously the only thing off limits) and Stan would promise to get to everyone in the room. With that out of the way, Stan made his was in.

I was completely blown away. I’ve had various little celebrity moments in my life, met actors, writers, astronauts, and even recently met an ex-President, but this guy was Stan “The Man” Lee. This is the man who (along with Jack Kirby and a handful of other brilliant creators) created what’s arguably one of the richest, deepest, and most beloved universes of modern mythology in our collective recent history. There simply is no analog over at DC. There’s no consistent personality you can look at (Julius Schwartz MAYBE comes closest) and say “he drove that”. Say what you want about Stan. He drove that ship. He wrote those words. Editor-in-Chief. That was his title. There probably won’t be another person like him in my lifetime… and he was standing right there in front of me.

He took his seat and began speaking. It was that voice. It was the voice that I grew up with on records (The Merry Marvel Marching Society!), cartoons, TV, movies… it was him. He’s 93 years young, but you wouldn’t even know it to see him. He looks exactly like he looks in the movies and on anything you’ve seen him in. This was the same Stan Lee who answered Brody’s questions about the Thing’s thing and whether or not Mr. Fantastic could stretch EVERY bit of himself. He’s a little challenged in the vision and hearing department, but his assistant sat next to him and carefully repeated our questions to Stan could answer us fully.

I had goosebumps every time he spoke and patiently waited for my turn. I asked him when he realized he was writing comic books for a more sophisticated audience beyond the “funny books” that he started with in the 40’s. “Great question,” he answered and spent the next several minutes talking about what it was like in the early 60’s writing stories that were beginning to appeal to an older and older audience. I just sat there dumbstruck. This was Stan Lee and I was alone with him and a couple dozen people sitting around tables in a small room having a casual conversation about him, his creations, his peers, and his recollections about creating the Marvel Universe.

It was brilliant.

We spent the next hour and a half or so chatting and at the end we all took a group photo, Shelton handed us a limited edition print signed by Stan, we shook his hand, thanked him and made our way out back to the world. I was walking on air. I was only a day into my trip and it had already exceeded every expectation I had… and I still had two more days!

Heroes Con Charlotte – Part 1 – Introduction

Heroes Convention Charlotte
Best comic book convention ever!

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and actively worked on writing. I used to really enjoy the rigor of keeping on a pretty consistent schedule of blogging and writing. It felt cathartic and it was just something that I really enjoyed. So I took the opportunity of the last couple of weeks to “get back on the horse” so to speak and start to try and write with a little more consistency and regularity.

A couple of weekends ago (Father’s Day to be more accurate) I got the chance to finally spend the weekend at Heroes Con in Charlotte. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Heroes Con is the annual comic book convention put on by Shelton Drum and the team at “Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find”, a really terrific comic book shop that’s been around since I was a kid, up in Charlotte. Shelton’s been putting this convention on for the last 33 years or so, and it’s grown into what I believe is one of the best (if not THE best) comic book convention in America. It’s certainly the ONLY comic book convention that’s singularly focused on comic books and a quick anecdotal survey of the creators who attend reinforces that it’s the most well-thought of, most enjoyed convention of the convention season. I’m sure when a lot of people think of “comic book convention” they think of Comic-Con in San Diego, but I’m here to tell you, there are few conventions annually that stack up against Heroes Con. It’s three days of pure comics, comic art, writing, sessions, cosplay and fun.

Growing up and during college I was a regular Heroes Con attendee, but recent years have been difficult to find a way to go and for probably the last several years I’ve marked it on my calendar as a, “this-year-I-promise-I’m-gonna-go” event, but sure enough, something always came up and I was always vowing to attend, “next year for sure”. Well last year I put my foot down and told myself that come hell or high water I was attending this year and began making plans back in late summer. My somewhat underwhelming experience at Dragon Con and Wizard World (two okay, but lackluster conventions if you’re a comic book fan) last year only steeled my resolve to make sure not another year passed without my ass being squarely in the thick of Heroes Con in 2015. To that end, I began setting aside a nest egg starting back in September and contributing weekly to my “Heroes Con Fund” to ensure that a lack of convention funds was not going to be an issue. I booked my hotel room last fall, bought my wife and I three day passes (kids under 10 are free!) as soon as they were available to buy, and put in for the only personal time off I had on the books for this year. I was set.

As the convention drew closer, I became almost apoplectic with excitement as the guest list was updated. At first the updates were coming in regularly every 30 days or so, but as it got closer and closer to the date, the updates increased and the names being added were bigger and bigger. Bernie Wrightson, Arthur Adams, Klaus Janson, Ed Piskor, Evan Dorkin, Kris Anka, Wilfredo Torres, Evan “Doc” Shaner… it just became a who’s who of artists, writers, colorist. I began to worry if I was going to literally have enough time over the course of three days to get an audience with the growing list of creators. I began to prioritize, plot, email (never underestimate the value of emailing a creator or artist to get on their radar and try to nail down arrangements before the convention) and scheme. I even bought a second sketchbook in a stroke of genius that I can’t take credit for. One evening I was lamenting to my wife that I didn’t think I’d be able to coordinate all the convention sketches I wanted and she casually mentioned, “why don’t you buy a second sketchbook and that way you can halve your effort, doubling your chances?” I sat there for a moment, dumbstruck at the brilliance of her idea and immediately jumped on Amazon to order a second book identical to the one I carry around.

Then, as if it wasn’t possible for me to anticipate something any more, two weeks before the convention the update to end all updates went out. Appearing Saturday only was the founding father of Marvel Comics himself, Stan “The Man” Lee. Special packages were made available at various price points with the highest end, a “VIP Meet ‘n Greet” with Stan being limited to an audience of 25. I was blown away. Sure, it was steep, way pricey… but I had been saving up since last year. I had the cheddar. I gave it a thought, slept on it, asked a couple of friends what they thought (“what, are you crazy? Of course you should do it, there’s no question!) and decided to plunk down the cash and go for the full Stan Lee Experience.

Stan Lee Max Pass 2015
Excelsior! Meeting Stan “The Man” Lee!

So there I was. I had a VIP Meet ‘n Greet on Friday evening and Saturday with Stan Lee, I had more than enough money squirreled away to guarantee a brilliant time, and had commitments for sketches from several of the most sought-after guests on my “must meet” list and a family that was looking forward to driving up to Charlotte and spending Father’s Day weekend in Marriott.

I couldn’t wait. It was going to be epic.

NEXT: Part 2 – Friday, the first day of the convention and I meet Stan Lee!

Heroes Con Saturday Evening Art Auction

Of course, I have a LOT MORE to write about Heroes Con last weekend, including shots of some of the sketches I got, some of the sketches my daughter got, and some of the comics I scored. But first I wanted to post these cool shots of the Annual Heroes Con Art Auction that I was able to shoot walking around Saturday night. The room was crowded and by the time I was able to make my way up to the front walls, art was already flying off the walls, so this is just a sampling of what was left.

Great stuff by Skottie Young, Wilfredo Torres, Joseph Michael Linsner, Bernie Wrightson, Joe Eisma, Sandy Jarrell, David Petersen, Francis Manapul, Joe Pekar, and a host of artists!.

Enjoy!

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 3: Final Thoughts

I have to just state right up front. I had a blast at DragonCon. More so than any convention in recent memory and FAR more fun than I had at Wizard World this summer (a decision that I’ll always regret making over HeroesCon and a mistake I won’t make again). I had such a great time this year, that without hesitation I purchased my next year tickets the moment they were announced and booked two nights in the W (a decision I’ll explain further down) for Friday and Saturday night of NEXT year’s DragonCon.

First off, this was my first Dragon*Con. I had avoided going to the past couple of years because frankly I wasn’t convinced that Dragon*Con was my bag. If you take even a cursory look at the program it’s obviously not a comic book convention, my normal summer haunts. It’s billed as a “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention” and there are a fair number of comic book related sessions, but it’s by no means a “Comic-Con” so you go in with the understanding that you’re a fraction of the audience, and so my expectations were that I would probably enjoy a proportional amount of the activity.

Boy was I wrong.

The sessions, the crowds, the Cosplayers, the Parade, the location, the activities, the people… it’s simply the best experience I’ve had at a convention in probably a decade. Comic-Con in Dallas, Wizard World… the only convention I think that even comes remotely close is HeroesCon in Charlotte, but that’s exclusively a Comic Book Convention so I think it’s an apples to oranges comparison. The truth is, I’m not sure there really IS anything that compares to Dragon*Con. It really is pure fandom. Much more pure and sincere in its execution than ComicCon in San Diego which is just a clusterfuck of Hollywood douchery and overcrowding. I have zero desire to attend ComicCon, but don’t take my word for it. Take a few minutes and see what Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, one of the founders and original attendees who’s been to every one, had to say about this year’s convention. He wrote about it here, here, and here. It just sounds like a horrible experience.

But I had a blast. I mean, it was hands down one of the highlights of 2014 and was such a marvelous time that on Tuesday, when tickets went on sale, I snapped up 3 tickets for next year without so much as a moment of hesitation. I tried to get us into the host hotels for next year as well, but those hotel rooms sold out within minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately I was able to use my Starwood Preferred membership and snag a room at the W just before it sold out and it’s not even a host hotel!

If you like/appreciate/are a fan of Comics, Fantasy, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Science Fiction, Comic Book movies, Tolkien, Ghostbusters, Horror, Zombies, and/or video games, and either live in the SouthEast, or have an interest in visiting Atlanta, then you owe it to yourself to attend. I promise, you won’t regret it.

See you next year!

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 2: Collecting Sketches

For some time now, I’ve been using my time at Conventions to collect sketches from my favorite creative professionals. This has proven to be an immensely rewarding experience and I’m proud of the book I’ve been able to put together in just a year. This year’s DragonCon featured Tim Sale, George Perez, Dave Bullock, Dave Johnson, Mark Bagley, and numerous other comic artists, animators, and illustrators. I mean, we’re talking Bob Camp, legendary co-founder of Spumco Animation Studio and co-creator of Ren & Stimpy! How often do you think you get the chance to have an opportunity to engage these guys? So I spend a lot of my time at conventions collecting sketches. In fact, I basically plan my whole convention around collecting as many sketches as I can. They’re one-of-a-kind mementos of my appreciation and fandom, and taken collectively represent my love of sequential art. I use a bound, 8 1/2″ X 11″ Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook. A terrific book with excellent paper. It takes ink very well and provides a great surface for sketches.

This year, I was lucky enough to start right off with a bang when I walked into Artists Alley and walked right past George Perez, who had a relatively small line. I jumped right into line and and asked George to sketch one of my all time favorite Perez superheroes, Firestorm the Nuclear Man. He was gracious and spent time chatting while sketching. I particularly love the use of the silver/gray sharpie for Dr. Stein. Classic stuff.

The most sought-after artists, of course, was Tim Sale. Without a doubt, one of my favorite comic artists, and high on the list of “most desirable” sketch. Tim has a method for getting sketches that requires a little effort. He has what are called “Fast Passes” that he holds starting first thing in the morning. You get there early enough, before the spots are filled up, and you can get 20 minutes of Tim’s time. His prices vary for what you want, but it’s worth the effort, as you can see below with his amazing “Daredevil Yellow” that I had commissioned. He also opens up the first and last hour of the day for quickies, and as you can see below, I was able to get him to draw me a quick Joker sketch as well. Two of my most prized sketches so far.

 

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 1: The Costumes

Well, of course the my FIRST post about Dragon*Con (don’t worry, there will be a couple more, I promise!) has to be about the Costumes. It’s well known that of ALL the conventions during the summer, that Dragon*Con in particular is perhaps the most well known among Cosplayers. It’s one of the main attractions of the convention, and the layout of Dragon*Con with it being spread between several inter-connected hotels and hotel lobbbies is the perfect environment to see and be seen. The below gallery of 66 images was taken by myself over the course of just two and a half days of convention. I arrived early Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening. In between, I stopped whoever looked particularly good and space (and traffic!) permitted. Always ask politely to take a picture and ALWAYS move the subject out of the main flow of traffic. If you can do these two things, you’ll score a nice treasure trove of photos of some really talented CosPlayers.

My “completely random, devoid of any purpose or meaning” top 10(ish) list for 2010.

I originally wrote this a couple days ago, at the end of 2010, but since I was on vacation, and was trying to purposely make it a point not to do anything remotely related to “working”, I just saved it and decided to post it today. Enjoy!

Because lists are fun, and if my “top ten list” contains thirteen items then, well, that’s my prerogative, right?

13. Pinboard.in
I love this service. Initially, I picked it up on the recommendation of some twitter peeps, and suddenly, with the impending demise of Delicious, it became my go-to social bookmarking service. It’s fantastic. It’s like someone took the idea of social bookmarking, Instapaper, and Delicious and mashed them all up. It’s as easy and convenient as Delicious was, using the bookmarklet is quick and painless. But that’s not the best part. See, my Twitter use is almost second nature. The people I follow are an endless stream of excellent links. Political blog entries, Code hints, Technology posts. I probably see at least a dozen posts a day containing links that I want to read later, that I want to share, that I think are worth bookmarking. Now it’s as easy as flagging the tweet as a “favorite”. That’s it! Now it’s bookmarked, and I can read it later, share it, whatever. It’s an amazingly useful service, and I love how well it’s executed.

12. “No Ordinary Family” on ABC
I’m gonna let you in on a secret. I loved ‘Heroes’. Go ahead. Laugh. I don’t care. I love superheroes, I love comic books, and I love anything that’s written in the same, fun way. So I was glad when ABC picked up on the hole in the current TV schedule and filled it with “No Ordinary Family”. It’s part “Fantastic Four”, part “Heroes” and part “The Incredibles”. Toss in Michael Chiklis for good measure, and you’ve got a sure-fire, guaranteed position on Jeff’s Top “Anything” list.

11. “Walking Dead” on AMC
Take the above, throw in some zombies, sprinkle a little bit of, “this shit ain’t on network television” and you’ve got “Walking Dead”. Look, I don’t care if you’re not a fan of comics. I don’t really care if you’re not a fan of zombies. I don’t care if you’re not fond of horror as a genre. You know why I don’t care? Because none of that’s really what this story is about. Walking Dead is about zombies the same way “Gone with the Wind” was about the Civil War. It’s not. “Zombies”, and the “post apocalypse” only serve as backdrops. They’re just the set. The real story is the people. Their story and their struggles when everything that they knew is suddenly taken away from them. Not just superficial material stuff, either. Things like, running water, electricity, transportation and more importantly, anything resembling a social framework. What would *you* do if everyone you loved was taken from you and there was no society left? Anywhere? That’s the story of “Walking Dead”. It’s the story of how the human spirit endures. Even when there are zombies about.

10. Acme Novelty Library – “Lint”
Hands down the best graphic novel of the last year. Bar none. Issue 20 in Chris Wares ongoing series tells the life story of Jordan “Jason” Lint. From birth to… well… death, and all points in between, Ware creates an amazing, spell-binding book. Every so often, about every seven to ten years, a book comes along that just reaffirms my belief that sequential storytelling is a bona-fide, pure, art form. Oh, I believe it with all my heart, but sometimes you lose sight of it after Civil Wars, Secret Invasions, and Reborn Heroes. This is that book and I consider myself damn lucky that it came along this year and I didn’t miss it. It can move you to tears, and you owe it to yourself to grab a copy. Get it. Read it. Then read it again, slower this time.

9. The Netgear STORA
Of all the hardware purchases I’ve made, and believe me I’ve made a lot of them, none has been more useful than the Stora. Photos, videos, music. It’s all there, and it’s always available, no matter where we are. Owning digital cameras, Flip camcorders, and an endless supply of music was always a storage nightmare. Photos were the easiest to move to the cloud, but video and music proved to be a costly endeavor. Enter the Stora. Redundant storage with mirrored drives and a nice web interface (with the added bonus of a terrific little mobile version). DLNA and UPNP have been pretty much flawless as well, providing an elegant streaming solution for a seemingly endless variety of TV-connected devices. Xbox360, GoogleTV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Digital Camera, Macbook, Laptops, Desktop PCs… All reading and writing to and from one central, solid, dependable place. If you live a digital life (earth to you, you’re reading a blog) then it’s a must-have.

8. “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
“A documentary about Banksy that winds up not being about Banksy.” I guess that’s how I’d describe it. It’s a brilliant piece of work. Not only is the subject matter compelling (it is after all, at least on the surface, about Banksy and in a not-so-tangential way, about street art) but the way the story unfolds it just sucks you in. My favorite documentary of last year, and I watched a LOT of documentaries last year.

7. Dreamweaver CS5
Seriously, what can I say about this tool? It’s damn near perfect. Even now, when I’m sitting down and REALLY digging into it, and I stumble into things like CSS Enable/Disable, Live View, CSS Inspect, I just gain a whole new appreciation for how easy and fun this makes my workflow. This tool single-handedly reminds me why I love to do what I do. Hell, the CSS panel and Code Inspector alone is worth the price of admission. For example, one of the great things about Dreamweaver is how it really immerses you in the cascade. When you’re working with CSS in Dreamweaver, you’re smack in the middle of the cascade and your workflow becomes almost zen-like. Without really thinking about it (or maybe it forces you to think about it on such a deep level that it becomes almost invisible) you’re working directly with inheritance and working on styles at every level of the document in precisely the right way. You can have your TextMates, or whatever text based IDE you’re stuck using. One day with Split View and you’d be a changed man in much the same way people come out of the water baptized. Throw in Live View and Code Inspect? I suspect your head would explode. In fact, I almost feel a sense of pity for people who are creating complex websites and aren’t using Dreamweaver. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to work on a WordPress site, for instance, and not have CS5’s CMS capabilities. Not to mention those poor miserable souls who aren’t able to take advantage of Browser Lab. It must be kinda like building a car from the ground up, with only a hammer.

6. Green Lantern 76
Hurray! After years of searching and failed attempts, I finally nabbed a copy of one of the most important Bronze Age comics this year. Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil’s ground-breaking work took an underperforming book (about to be cancelled!) and transformed it into the voice of a generation. There is no better example of the revolution of the “socially responsible comic” than this. Considered by many to be a watershed moment in comics, when comics moved from the playful, fun, and frivolous, into the “real world”. By allowing Hal Jordan to play the straight man to Ollie’s “social conscience”, O’Neil and Adams were able to craft some of the best story-telling of the era. Their journey only last a handful of issues, but the effect of their work still resonates today. I’ve got a lot of important, rare, beautiful comics. Some are more valuable than this one, some are rarer, but this is the one I’d consider the “jewel” of my collection. The one I’m most proud to own.

5. Irredeemable and Incorruptible
Mark Waid knocked it out of the park. Imagine Superman. Invincible. All-Powerful. Super speed, super hearing. Completely unstoppable. Imagine what it would be like if suddenly he snapped. Who could stop him? Nobody, that’s who. Mark Waid took the premise of “what would happen if the most powerful being on the planet suddenly decided he didn’t like us anymore?” and went with it. I mean, he didn’t just go with it, he went all the way with it. No holds barred. You know that dark place where you just thought things like, “well, would he destroy an entire city?” Oh yes. He would. In a heartbeat. Literally. Without remorse, and without even a hint of feeling. “Yeah, but he wouldn’t like, kill kids or anything, would he?” Oh, he most certainly would. In spectacular fashion. With his heat vision, of course. Because that would literally be the definition of “blink of an eye”. “But what about the Justice League? They’d stop him, right?” Are you kidding me? He’d go through them like a hot knife through butter. You think Batman’s all that? He wouldn’t last a nanosecond. Waid takes all the archetypes and puts them in their proper places and lets the story run. It’s one of the most amazing stories I’ve read in comics in years. Remember what I wrote above about Ware’s Acme Novelty Library? Well, every so often a comic comes along that reminds you that even in a sea of Heroes being Reborn, or Secret Invasions, Black Nights (or Bright Days, whatever they’re calling it this month) there are still people putting out honest to goodness, straight up, kick you in the face, superhero comics. Let’s all take a moment and thank Mr. Waid. He made 2010 a great year for comics.

4. iPad
What can I say about the iPad that hasn’t already been said? I guess all I can say is what I actually use mine for, and how it made it to number 4 on this list. Let’s see… I don’t buy new comics anymore. I just read them on the iPad, and I probably won’t buy another new comic book ever again. Think about that for a moment, because that’s pretty significant for a lifelong comic book reader. I watch Netflix on it with headphones. I put an entire season of the Smurfs on it, and suddenly my daughter is off in a back room someplace running the battery dead. She’s better at touch navigating at four years old, than I am at 43, having far more “touch navigation intuition” than I believe I’ve ever had. I’ve got an entire library of programming reference books that used to take up a whole room in my house on my iPad that I carry around with me. They’re always available. The shelves at my house? Not so much. By the way, those shelves? Gone in 2011. I have an annual membership to Lynda.com that I’ve had for about four or five years and in the months since getting my iPad I’ve used more than all the time prior combined. I bought a $4 picture stand at Target, propped up the iPad next to my laptop, and just put the headphones on. Then, for the next several hours, I just get lost in training videos. It’s heaven. That’s just the personal shit. I have a whole folder full of apps that help me do my job for things like Analytics, data visualization, site mapping, presentations. Oh sure, the syncing sucks (seriously, it can’t sync via bluetooth? #AppleFail) but beyond that, it became an almost instant utility.

3. “Contra” by Vampire Weekend
I think I wore out the ones and zeros on my copy. Best album of the year. Self described as “Upper West Side Soweto”, these guys are everything I love about indie rock. Smart, funny, catchy, and gleefully self-aware. I’m not going to wax poetic about it, or over-analyze it. It’s just great music.

2. Fallout: New Vegas
Last year I wrote a blog post listing my top ten video games of 2009. This year I’m not even going to bother. Last year the number one game of 2009 that I played was “Fallout 3” (which was actually released in 2008, but I spent most of 2009 playing). This year, New Vegas was released around October or so and I haven’t touched another game since. Oh sure, Red Dead Redemption was spectacular, no doubt. I enjoyed Singularity, even though it was over pretty quickly. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was a hoot and I enjoyed playing it with my daughter, who loved watching Spider-Man act… well… “Spider-Man-ish”. Bioshock 2 was amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed Lego Harry Potter, Dead Rising 2 was a total blast, and Alan Wake was completely ground breaking. But one game stood head and shoulders above the rest. After spending about 120 hours playing New Vegas completely through, I realized I had only scratched the surface and as soon as the credits had finished I started it right back up again and started making different decisions. The first time, I was making a conscious effort to “do the right thing” morally. The second time, not so much. The result? A completely different game, with a completely different story, leading to a completely different outcome, and a completely different experience. It was fantastic. Entire new storylines unfolded before my eyes. Characters interacted with me in a completely different way, and my life in the Mohave Wasteland of post-apocalyptic Las Vegas was wholly different as a result. Apparently, at least according to the Prima Strategy Guide I got from Toys R Us for free when I pre-ordered the game (which was the best decision I made, by the way) there are about 26 different endings. Yep, twenty six. We’re not talking slight variations on an ending, we’re talking 26 pretty much entirely different endings. Depending on who you ally with, what decisions you make, how you complete storylines, you’ll find yourself in one of about 26 different places with alliances spread among half a dozen or so different factions, each vying for a piece of the Vegas action. Considering a run through a game will take you about 100 hours or so to complete, you’re looking at a lot of gameplay. I loved it. Game of the Year for me.

1. The 2010 Cervelo RS
I don’t even know where to begin to write about how much I love this bike and how much it’s changed my whole outlook about riding. It’s perfectly sized, the geometry is dead-on, it’s quick, responsive. It feels like it was created from the ground up just for me. After spending the last several years riding an older, aluminum, Trek, I could instantly tell the difference between full carbon and aluminum. It was incredible. I’ve always loved riding, having a sense of, “I could do this all day”. But this is the first time I’ve ever gotten on a bicycle and actually thought that I could literally ride it all day. I got the bike in the late summer of this year and was only able to put about 1500 miles on it before moving indoors to the rollers, but I’m looking forward to this spring when I can pull it out and really put it through its paces. I have a feeling that the combination of speed, comfort and warm weather will make my new year’s resolution of 5,000 miles in 2011 a cakewalk.