Saturday, June 30, 2007

Summer Nights

We are just having so much fun right now, I can't stand it. We've seen more movies in the past two months than we saw all of last year. Why? It's called a drive-in. We've been going to the Tri-Way Drive-In Theater in Plymouth, Indiana. Last night we saw Live Free or Die Hard and just had a great time. The evening was cool, clear, and we sat outside under the stars in front of the car in lawn chairs watching a fun movie. Sera played for a while on the blanket we put on the ground in front of us, and then went to sleep in her car seat while Mom and Dad watched the movie.

The Tri-Way charges $7.00 for adult admission and Sera gets in free. That's especially reasonable when you consider that they only show double features. Their concessions are of high quality and very reasonably priced. Last night we decided to have dinner at the theater and I had a very good steakburger for just $3.00. Their Chicago style hot dog was out of the world for about the same price. They have a combo that features a huge plastic bucket of popcorn and two 44-oz. drinks for just $8.00. When you stack that up with ordinary movie theater fare, it just doesn't compare.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What I Would Do with One Billion Dollars

One of the activities I have my students work on is an essay entitled, "What I Would Do with One Billion Dollars." It's a fun activity for them and tells me a lot about them. By forcing them to itemize their expenditures, they discover that they really had no concept of how much a billion is. This leads us to discussions about scientific notation to express very large numbers, and they also have to learn about how much things cost. When they are done with the activity, I inevitably get asked, "What would you do with a billion dollars, Mr. McClain?"

I have done this for probably 15 years now, and I have had no shortage of ideas. The imagination literally runs wild with ideas on how to spend this enormous sum of money.

If I were to receive one billion dollars today, I would:
  • give one million dollars to each member of my wife's and my families. The children's money would be placed in trust to be used for their education and the remainder disbursed upon their graduation from college: $22,000,000
  • provide full four-year scholarships to any student I ever had who gained acceptance to a college: approximately $25,000,000
  • give one million dollars to each of my friends: $35,000,000
  • buy four season tickets for the Detroit Tigers in section 135 of the Tigers' Den for the next 40 years: $480,000
  • buy two homes and an apartment: one house near Gulf Shores, Alabama on the bay near my wife's family's bay houses; one along the Manistee River in Mesick, Michigan, where I grew up. I would also maintain a condo on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, near Comerica Park: $3,000,000

These are things I choose every year, and it totals less than $100,000,000, 10% of the money to spend. Lately, though, I have added things to my list that I would never have done before.

  • I would adopt another daughter from China. We can afford one daughter right now, but a second one would stretch our budget uncomfortably. We would both go back tomorrow to get another child.
  • I would help other people adopt with interest-free loans. There are literally thousands of children waiting to be adopted and thousands of parents who can't front the money for it that they would get back in tax credits.

But here's the one I've been thinking about lately, and it is something I feel strongly about:

  • I would create a comic book line appropriate for all ages with ascending levels of reading difficulty so that children could learn to read along with their heroes.

The heroes in my comics grow into their roles starting at about five years old, akin to the Power Pack books that Marvel produces. As the kids grow older, they learn about their powers and learn how to behave in the world in a civilized and responsible way. Of course they get into trouble like kids do, but how they handle it would be the way they define themselves as heroes.

If a character dies in this comic book universe, they would stay dead. In the current comics world, death has no meaning. There used to be an expression, "Only Bucky stays dead," referring to Captain America's old partner who died during World War II. Well, guess what? Bucky's back. Death's permanence is an important lesson that kids need to learn.

In my comic book line, heroes would act as heroes. There would be no need for replacement heroes. No hero falls from grace. They may be viewed as threats, but they aren't threats. Sidekicks would be encouraged to strike out on their own and fight evil instead of forever remaining in their mentors' shadows.

In my comic book line, heroes don't fight other heroes. In fact, they only fight at all as a last resort, if there's no other way. Conflict resolution is an important lesson that kids need to learn about as well. If you think that's boring, check out Fantastic Four under Waid and Wieringo.

Speaking of writers and artists, those are the first two on my list. Mark Waid knows more about the Silver Age than almost any other living person. The Silver Age is a feeling I'd like to replicate. Mike Wieringo has a cartoony style that I just can't get enough of. I'd also like to get J. Scott Campbell for the art on my teenage books. I loved what he did with Gen13 and Wildsiderz. I just didn't care for the stories in them.

In short, I'd like comic books that my daughter not only could read, but should read. I wonder how much that would cost?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Birthdays at Barnaby's

On New Year's Day 2006, in the wee hours of the morning, the South Bend area gaming community lost a dear friend in Barry Winston. Barry, who was taking a shift as a bouncer to pay some bills off, died of a heart attack at age 36. Since then, many of us have met at a local pizza chain called Barnaby's every four weeks or so to celebrate the birthdays that occurred during the previous month. We won't ever take birthdays for granted again.

Barry and I were friends. We were never really that close, but we were friends. We'd been to each other's homes and had lunch together several times. He built the computer I'm using to write this blog entry. We were also art partners for several years, starting in 1988. I was drawing with pencils a lot, but was never comfortable with inking, while Barry was more than proficient with both media. So, Barry more than made up for my lack of talent. He made my pencils look far better than they were.

Our gaming community is a strange one. It has cliques and subgroups, and some of us don't really know others, but we are all connected through mutual friends. Barry was one of the few who knew absolutely everyone, and we all loved Barry. I brought all of my inked sketches to his wake, and was amazed at how many people there were who had not seen our work.
I think the sketch that I will treasure most, though, is the one from which the headshot in this blog's logo comes. Barry did all the work himself, based on my verbal description of my character Domino, when he was just 21 years old. One of my favorite things about it is the way that Barry spotted blacks and this sketch highlights that talent perfectly. The figure has power, gravity, and grace. I liked it so much that I had a copy of it colored by Lurene Haines a few years later.

He had so much talent, and he died far too young. But I can't help thinking that Barry would have enjoyed knowing that we gather in his memory and that he won't ever be forgotten.

Here's to you, Barry.


LCS is an internet-usage abbreviation for Local Comic Shop. My LCS is Buy Me and it's located in Mishawaka, Indiana. I've known the owners, Casey and Kelly Heying, since they were quite literally kids. I used to sell Magic: The Gathering and Star Trek: The Customizable Card Game cards as well as action figures at trade shows and in malls on weekends and quite often, I'd see them at some of the same shows. Their business was called "Shadow of the Bat" at the time, and they grew big enough with their mail-order sales of action figures to open their own storefront in Mishawaka's 100 Center. Later, they moved to the late, lamented Scottsdale Mall, where they opened Buy Me Toys. I thought it was funny that their store had the same name as the fictional toy store in Kevin Smith's "Mallrats," but they assure me that it's just coincidence. It would have been funnier had it been deliberate. Despite the store's name, they also sell comic books and a lot of them.

It's nice to have an LCS because it gives me a place to hang out and talk about comic books with people who have similar interests. It serves as a base of operations for local comic book creators and people who generally enjoy the medium as I do. The odd thing about it, though, is that sometimes the place makes me feel...well, old. Casey and Kelly are considerably younger than I am and when I reference some obscure Batman story from the 1970s I sometimes get blank looks. Comic book fans are funny that way; there is an expected knowledge base of comic book history that comes with being a comic book fan, and woe be to anyone who exhibits the slightest ignorance. If you've seen "the Comic Book Guy" on the Simpsons, you get a slightly exaggerated idea of what many comic book fans are like. I have to laughingly forgive some of their knowledge lapses because of their youth, but it does make me feel old.

Our LCS is well-stocked and the service is very good. They are leaders in sales of action figures, and they have a pull-list service for new comics. The pull-list service probably could use some work, but they are just two people operating the store so on the occasion that I miss a comic on my list, I don't get too upset. They also tend to know their customers' reading habits and make good recommendations to enhance their reading pleasure. That's a good move and a big plus in my book.

The most fun thing to do now is to take Sera to the comic book store. Casey and Kelly had their third child while we were in China, so they appreciate little children too. I'm still picking out which titles to get for Sera when it's reading time. I have a few favorites, and they have shared their daughters' personal favorites as well. I hope there are more options soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Theresa!

I just want to take this opportunity to wish my niece, Theresa, a happy 18th birthday!

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Choked!

Well, as I wrote in my last post I was going for 100% in my Introduction to Computing Class. I blew it. I missed two questions out of 40 on the final exam. They were both Excel questions about absolute and relative cell references. Since none of the class assignments dealt with those, I missed them. Oh well, I still got my A and I get to renew my teaching license for five more years.

And now that the class is over, I can enjoy the rest of my summer in relative peace. The class only lasted six weeks, so it was compressed and the assignments were labor-intensive. Now I can concentrate on getting back to another project, a secret project, that I've been working on since winter. I'm creating a workbook for middle school math. Its exact nature must remain a secret until it's finished. Everyone who has looked at it says that it's a sure thing and it would be wonderful if that is true. We'll have to see.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I have nothing specific to say today, so I'm going to play stream-of-consciousness. I'm going to write random thoughts and follow where they lead. Some will be connected, some won't. That way you can see just how messed up my brain is.
  • I love my wife and daughter more than anything in the world.
  • I need to get my teaching license renewed as soon as my class is over so I can keep my job and continue to help support them.
  • My final exam for Introduction to Computing is tonight. I have a 100% average, so I'm not worried. I'm going to try to get another 100 on the final because I've never finished a college course with 100% before. I don't care if I wreck the curve for everyone else.
  • Teaching summer school is fun. Because you have to give the kids time to do their work, there's lots of downtime during which you can work on other your blog!
  • I hate arguing about politics. You'll never change anyone's mind about anything. At least with baseball you can use statistics to compare players' performances. In politics everyone fails to some extent and there's no World Series to get excited about.
  • I'm amazed at the waste that goes on in this country. Do we really need to water our lawns? Is having perfectly green grass more important than having water available to fight fires? There was a fire at a recycling plant near our house the other day and the city actually had to ask people not to water their lawns so there would be enough to put the fire out.
  • People in our neighborhood are having garage sales. They've been working for days to make a few hundred dollars. Most if not all of them earn more money than that in their jobs. Why don't they just give the stuff away and deduct it as a charitable contribution?
  • Why aren't MP3 players allowed in school? If the students use them to help them focus on their work, what's the harm in that? Teachers can make students put them away when they need full attention. It would be no more difficult to enforce that than to enforce the "no MP3 player" rule in the first place.
  • A friend of mine recently had a house fire and lost all of his gaming materials. We're talking about thousands of pages of quality material that he created. I think it's time to make backups of mine, not that they even compare in quality, but I would hate to lose them all. The artwork that I would lose would be a tragedy all by itself. Some of it can't be replaced as the artists are deceased. That includes a Justice League of America page drawn by Dick Dillin.
  • Superman is an illegal immigrant.
  • I wish I had time to explore all of my interests. I love to draw, to write, to take photographs, to read, and I have never had enough time to do them all. Retirement for me means having the time and means to explore all the things I have always wanted to do. I should be able to retire when I'm 55.
  • Batman is guilty of tax fraud. The government doesn't have a proper assessment of his property since he has one of the most valuable finished basements in America. It's called the Batcave. Think the Joker is deadly? Wait until he faces the IRS.
  • I want a finished basement. And I'll call it the Batcave.
  • Every big project we have is measured in terms of summer school sessions. Fence around the yard? One summer school session. New living room furniture? One summer school session. Finished basement/Batcave? Two summer school sessions. Adding a giant dinosaur and penny will be extra.

That's all for now. I'm sure my brain will misfire more later.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day Reflections

I'm sure being a father has changed me in so many ways that I am probably not even aware of them all, but the one that I am most definitely aware of is that I am happy.

Whether it comes from being abused by parent-figures or burned by contemporaries, I am often suspicious when people show any kind of affection toward me. Somewhere in my brain, suspicions arise because if someone likes me, there must be something wrong with them. Many of my friends don't know why, but having read this I'm sure it makes sense. But with my daughter, there can be no doubt. She loves me with a white-hot, supernova love. When I walk into the house each day, she lights up and giggles so hard that she can't stand still. You can't fake that, and even if you could, she's not old enough to know how.

I'm still amazed at the things she learns. From the very first night of singing her to sleep I used Beethoven's Fifth: Da-da-da-daaaaaaaah; da-da-da-daaaaaaaaaaah. Now she sings it whenever she thinks it's appropriate, along with "ee-i-ee-i," which concludes with the unsung "oh." She has picked up sign language at an amazing rate. She learns a new word every two or three days. Yesterday was milk. She's like a sponge, this one. I have to be careful about what I say or do because she's likely to pick it up too quickly. Thank goodness for Battlestar Galactica, because I have weened myself off certain words that begin with "f" by saying "frak" instead.

I dream about Sera every night. I imagine what she'll be like when she's older, and I can see us taking her places like Disney World or Six Flags. In my dreams we do all the things I never got to do as a child. We'll be going to Mackinac Island this summer, something I didn't get to do until I was 16. I know she won't remember it, but we will.

I have spent entirely too much time in my life worring about the past. The best part of being a dad is focusing on the future. Maybe that's why I'm so happy!

Sunday, June 17, 2007


If you were a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) as I was, then do yourself a favor and try out RiffTrax. Rifftrax offers supplemental soundtracks to popular movies using the voices of Michael Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, three veterans of MST3K. The trio simply rip movies apart while you watch them, and believe me, some of these movies deserve it. RiffTrax works by basically downloading an MP3 file and playing it on your computer while you play the DVD on a DVD player. You synch up the two tracks and off you go. There is an occasional mechanical voice called Disembaudio reading a line of dialogue along with the movie so you can make sure that they are still running concurrently.

The main differences between MST3K and RiffTrax is that you don't see Mike and the Robots in silhouette, and they riff on recent movies. Over winter recess I listened to their impressions of Star Wars Episode I and I just about fell off my chair laughing. Tonight I'm watching Episode II with their comments:

Padme: "You are a Jedi and I am a senator. If this follows to its natural conclusion we'll end up in a place where we cannot go."

Mike from RiffTrax: "Cuba?"

If you like that kind of humor, then try RiffTrax.


I'd wish my father a happy Father's Day here, but he doesn't have a computer!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cities of Heroes

It's fun to get together with your friends and sit around a table to play role-playing games. For the uninitiated, a role-playing game (RPG) is like playing pretend, but with rules and dice-rolling to arbitrate the actions of the characters you're pretending to be. Instead of running around the yard like when you were a child you sit around a table, using a map and metal miniatures to show the relative position of your characters and the environment in which they interact. Most of the general public knows this as "Dungeons & Dragons," although there are hundreds of different games spanning dozens of genres that perform the same function: allowing one to express creativity and tell stories cooperatively. The bottom line is that it's fun. Don't knock it until you try it!

I had played RPGs informally in college, simply because time was at a premium and it was tough to match schedules with so much activity. I tried various games, like DC Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes, and even D&D. But after graduation, I joined a group that changed my life. My friend Scott had told me about the group he played with in South Bend, Indiana, and how they had been playing in a campaign (an episodic series of gaming sessions)together for a few years. I sat in with them once, but again, was too busy during college to dedicate the time for it. But after I graduated from college in 1987, Scott had a serious car accident and he needed someone to drive him to the game. And since I suddenly had the time, I jumped at the chance to join. And the rest, for me, is history.

We played at my friend Doug's house, in his dining room. The game was called
Champions, a popular superhero game that uses a point-based system to create your very own original superhero. I have always loved the superhero genre, and had made up my own superheroes for years. It was amazing how each player's character came to life. Week after week, we met on Sunday, shared pizza and pop, and developed complex characters that would put the best author to shame. Hundreds of game sessions flew by. We went to dinner and movies together, played disc golf, and cultivated true friendships. A few players left here and there, but the core group stayed intact for the next six years and we all stayed in touch. Finally, we found ourselves distracted by real life as players got married, began careers and moved away. The game ended in 1994.

Well, here we are in 2007 and thanks to the internet I still play with my friends. We now play on online game called
City of Heroes. We play on Wednesday nights and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Instead of sitting around a table in South Bend, we sit at our computers in our own homes, whether they are in Virginia, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Michigan, or Indiana. We still talk to each other, too. We use a computer program called Skype which provides voice communication over the internet. So, we play with headsets on, and carry on conversations covering just about every topic that we used to discuss, ranging from movies and music to politics and religion. It's just that now we also talk about children and taxes too. The computer resolves the action for us, which is more fair, but I sometimes miss rolling 12 or more dice and watching them scatter over the table.

Those of us who still live in the area remain good friends. Doug and I were each best man for each other's weddings. We both have kids now, which makes it tougher in some ways to go to movies together, but Doug's son Sean is a
born gamer. I'm just trying to figure out the best age for the kids to all get around a table together so they can start rolling dice and becoming real friends. And if they move away as adults, I'm sure technology will provide the means for them to remain close, as it has worked for my friends and me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Justin Verlander is an outstanding young pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. What he did tonight left me speechless. He threw a no-hitter. He didn't throw it against a terrible offense. He didn't throw it against a last place team. He threw a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers, the first place team in the National League Central Division. He struck out twelve batters. He struck out Tony Graffanino four times. This is the first no-hitter by a Tiger since Jack Morris threw one against the Chicago White Sox in 1984. I saw that one, too.

In my life, I played in two no-nos in high school and have seen one in person against the South Bend Silverhawks. But this one is special. I made a special trip to Comerica Park last year just to see Justin pitch during his rookie season. I took the above photograph at that game. And since he was the American League Rookie of the Year last year, I sure am glad I made the trip.

In the ninth inning, with the whole crowd standing, the cheers had to have been deafening. Having been in Comerica during the playoffs, it brought memories flooding back to me and tears to my eyes.

I love this game.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

"I Think That I Shall Never See..."

...a billboard lethal as a tree." With apologies to Ogden Nash, I think I'd have preferred billboards this week.
Thursday was interesting. I got home at noon, had a little lunch, got Sera ready to go out to run errands, and a tree fell down in our front yard. It split at the juncture of two branches and the part that broke fell into the street. I went outside to look at it and it had dark marks on it as if it had been struck by lightning. I looked up into the remaining part of the tree and saw a split further up. I called a few tree removal places before I found one that could come out right away, and when the "arborialist" got there, he took a quick look at the situation and gave me some options. First, he could cut off the part that had fallen and haul it away for $125, or he could cut down the whole tree for $850. I think the second price might have been exaggerated to persuade me to take the first option. He looked up at the split and said that it looked like it could heal. He said it had been carpenter ants and the split had probably been there for months. The wind was pretty stiff that day, and after gust he said, "See? If that part was going to come down it would have already." So, I took him at his word and he and his crew of three got to work. 15 minutes later I paid him the $125 and they left me with an immaculate yard.

An hour later the rest of the tree fell on our house.

It would be amusing if it weren't for the fact that the tree fell on the house. It didn't hurt anything, but it was pretty annoying. I went to class, and Magi took care of the rest of it when the guy arrived later in the evening. He only ended up charging us a total of $550, so I guess I feel lucky. They did a good job cleaning up the tree. You can't even tell there was one there.

On Friday, we packed up Sera and went to Rhapsody in Green, an annual summer celebration in Elkhart. It seems like all the midwest towns have these all summer long. There's no good reason. They must like carnival food. While we were walking around Island Park, where the celebration occurs, a branch fell out of an overhead tree from about 60 feet up. I don't know why I stopped in my tracks, but I did, and it hit the ground and exploded right in front of me. I think the trees are out to get me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fighting Crime

I'm not a superhero but I used to play them in role-playing games.

This weekend, while we were driving in Elkhart, we saw a moped tipped over in the middle of the street. A car was backing away from it onto a side street. It paused for a moment, and then turned around and took off in the opposite direction. The driver of the moped was getting up off the ground. As we pulled up, I rolled the window down and asked him if that car had hit him. He said it had. So, I turned down the side street and followed the escaping vehicle. After a couple of twists and turns, the car accelerated well past the speed limit toward the direction from which we had come. We caught up with it at a traffic light and took down its license plate number. Whereas some of my superhero characters would have lifted the car and flown it to police headquarters, we simply pulled into the nearest parking lot and called the police. When they arrived, we gave them our information and went home. I felt good that we had done the right thing, despite the lack of super powers.

Setting an example for Sera is becoming very important to me, but it is hard work. It has made me think twice about my actions many, many times since we came back from China. For the most part I'm satisfied that I do well, but this process has really opened my eyes about some of my behavior and I'm working to change it.

Monday, June 04, 2007


What an incredible evening!

On a day when we drove to Kalamazoo just to get Sera some Tigers wear, I caught a foul ball at a baseball game. No big deal, you're probably saying. Many of you have caught foul balls at games. Well, here's why it's a big deal. My friend and colleague Dave and I went to the South Bend Silverhawks game tonight, and a near-miracle happened. I never sit behind the plate because I want to catch a foul ball. I've been waiting years to catch one. I usually sit on the third base line where I can at least have a good chance. Well, tonight of all nights I finally caught one. The ball was fouled straight back and rolled down the safety net over section 109 and fell through a hole directly above me. I caught it even though I had my scorecard in my hands. This is coincidence enough, but here's where it gets really cool: As a Tigers fan I experienced something of a convergence, because the foul ball that I caught was hit by Great Lakes Loons outfielder Scott Van Slyke. Who's he? Why, none other than the son of Tigers first base coach Andy Van Slyke. Who did I get to sign the ball after the game? The manager of the Great Lakes Loons, none other than former Detroit Tiger Lance Parrish. How's that for a night for a Tigers fan?

Friday, June 01, 2007

"Simplify, simplify."

That's what Calvin's dad said in the greatest comic strip ever devised (in my opinion), "Calvin and Hobbes," when faced with the dilemma of having "accumulated more than we need" and having "accepted too many demands." Yes, I know it's a quote from Henry David Thoreau, but I prefer to get my wisdom from comics. They filter out all the noise for me because, let's face it, some of these philosophers and poets were windbags of immense proportion.

Speaking of windbags...As I prepare to abandon my own classroom for the summer (I teach summer school at Memorial High School this year) I find that my room is cluttered with too many things. I scarcely have cabinet space for all of it. I can fit everything I need to teach my course in a container no larger than 1.5 cubic feet, and I have done so in preparation for Wednesday, when we meet at the summer school site. So why do I have all this stuff in my room?
I could fill a truck with all the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball stuff I bought last year. I tried to use baseball as a theme this year. What better application of percents, proportions, ratios, and geometry is there? The answer is none, but it fell flat on its face. I shouldn't have been surprised, because kids don't much watch baseball anymore. It's not fast enough for them and some of my kids have the attention span of small insects. That's right, small insects. Even some large insects have longer spans. To sound like an old grump, it's the video game generation. Flashing lights and floor-shaking sounds can occupy them for hours, but something that requires more thought than reflexes, and they tune out. I'm afraid that America's Pastime is past its prime. I will always love it, but the hard fact of the matter is that it has gone by the wayside in mainstream culture.

The reason I switched the decor to baseball to begin with was the crisis of faith I had in my other childhood love, comic books. A few years ago, a storyline in DC Comics' "Identity Crisis" miniseries just turned my stomach. Heroes that I loved as a kid, members of the Justice League of America, acted in a very much, that word is not strong enough...violently criminal way; they forcefully changed a villain's personality by violating his very mind and warping it to their own wants. And when Batman, another of my childhood heroes, learned of it, they turned their mind-warping attentions to one of their own. Then, a few months later, in the "Infinite Crisis" storyline, writers had an alternate-earth version of Superboy decapitate a heroine named Pantha on panel, and then rip another hero's arm from its socket, complete with gore. These scenes are not for the faint of heart:

Are you kidding me?? We were in the process of adoption then, and I tried to imagine teaching my daughter to read with this material. I almost literally got sick to my stomach. I wouldn't let her read this as a teenager, let alone a toddler. The comic book that inspired me to learn to read was Superboy. The comic that taught me the meaning of heroism was Justice League of America. And what was I to do with all of the superhero posters that I had laminated and hung in my room? I took them down the next day. I could not in good conscience promote the adventures of these characters as they were going to be written.

Simpler Times
Fortunately, reprints of the classic appearances of these characters are easily and readily available. DC's Showcase series and Marvel's Essentials series have made black and white reprints available at very reasonable prices. There are about 500 pages of comics in each edition of these 1960s and 1970s comics and at Amazon, you can get them for around $10-$11 each. I am going to fill my bookshelves with them next year and get my superhero posters back out. My kids will know what being a hero is all about, and I really don't mind if they laugh at "Mumbling mantas!" as an expression. Looking back on it, I think it's pretty funny too. They may have been simpler times but it sure beats looking at Pantha getting her head knocked off.