Barley and Potato Soup
10 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup dry pearled barley
1 lbs red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced fennel bulb
1 cup sliced leeks
1 package arugula (5 oz)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1) Boil broth and barley in a large pot over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer 50-55 minutes
2) Add potatoes, carrots, fennel, and leeks and simmer until fork-tender, 15-20 minutes
3) Stir in arugula, dill, lemon juice and salt. Season soup with pepper and garnish each serving with lemon zest
Beth and I love to cook, and so my mother got us Cuisine Magazine. We found some excellent recipes in there and tried them out over the weekend.
Asparagus Wraps with Proscuitto & Marinated Mozzarella
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1 tsp dijon mustard
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced (at least 8 slices)
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
4 flour tortillas
12 thin slices prosciutto
1) Preheat oven 425 degrees
2) Whisk Italian and dijon mustard together, then pour over mozzarella slices in a shallow dish. Turn mozzarella to coat with marinade. Set mozzarella aside to marinate while preparing asparagus
3) Toss asparagus spears with oil and season with salt and pepper; transfer to a baking sheet. Roast asparagus until crisp-tender (approx 8-10 minutes).
4) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high
5) Brush inside of the tortillas with the marinade, then top with 2-3 slices marinated mozzarella, 3 slices proscuitto, and a quarter of the asparagus.
6) Tightly roll up wraps; brush outsides with marinade. Brown wraps in hot skillet (I used a George Forman grill) until golden and mozzarella slightly melts. Remove wraps and slice in half on the bias.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there’s no better way to start the convention season than with a show that has shown the growth (and has the fun factor) like Anime Milwaukee. I’ve been invited back to the show as a guest for the last 5 years, which you would think may burn some people out. However, I have so much fun at this show because of the staff, volunteers, and of course the fans! And this year was no exception.
The show invited yet another comic creator this year, my good buddy Russell Lissau (Shrek, Strawberry Shortcake) and so the two of us drove up to stay with our mutual friend / comic creator Alan Evans (Rival Angels). Alan, like me, has been a guest at the show for the last several years, and we always enjoy being invited back.
Russ and I arrived late, but we got to hang out a bit and chat with Alan before slipping off to bed early.
After stopping off at Brugger’s for some delicious bagel sandwiches, the group of us headed over to the convention center to set up. The show had positioned us in a prime location – right by the main entrance, in a circle of tables. Each of us got a table and a half, which was a nice set up for the amount of books and merch each of us brought to the show.
I had two new books (for the show) in the Albert books, which were strong sellers throughout the weekend. Several people approached me asking about @$$hole! volume 2 (it’s coming, I swear…just been sidetracked working on launching the Albert the Alien webcomic series). And I had sold out of Hope by this time, so the table was a little different than in years past.
Alan and I were returning faces, but Russ was new to the show and had a fun time. The show gave us a handler who kept us hydrated, and we also had a block of panels in the same room at night. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Friday was a decent paced sales day for me, but it always tends to be a little slower than the rest of the weekend. After the floor closed, we stowed the books and headed off to Opening Ceremonies where I got to catch up with Todd Hobbercorn, Chris Cason, and the rest of the voice actor guests. It was great to see them again, and we started coming up with hilarious fictional situations involving our opening ceremonies speeches. Parts of them tend to get incorporated into what we do, but it’s also a nice way to unwind before doing something stressful like public speaking.
We went to the Thai place across the street for dinner, and then had to run across the street to our panels. Alan was first, with a Rival Angels panel which was attended by some fans with some great questions. After his panel was my Evening with Trevor Mueller panel, which drew quite the crowd. I told a bunch of new stories involving wedding planning, hitting on fans at conventions (back when I was single, of course), and some of the favorites from previous years. Russell brought the night to a close with a strong showing for his “Writing Batman” panel, which had a number of fans in cosplay attending – and asking some really great questions.
After the panels, we headed back to Alan’s and almost went straight to bed. The day had been exhausting, but a great first full day of the weekend.
Another fantastic breakfast at Brugger’s, followed by getting to the show to set up. Sales were high and heavy throughout the day as we sold our wears, chatting up fans from the panels the previous night. The day saw solid sales from the books, especially for Albert.
After the show ended we ran out to dinner with Alan’s wife, but unfortunately weren’t able to get into any of the places we wanted. Instead, we went to the other Thai place next to the convention – which was pretty busy. I had to cut and run from dinner to make it to my panel on time, where I talked about Albert the Alien – the origins, what inspired the stories, and the future plans for the character. After the panel, I sat in on Alan’s “Making Webcomics” panel, which we’ve often given together anyway. Panels are easier with other people, so it’s always a comfort to have someone else to fall back on or bounce conversations off. Afterwards, we joined Russell for the final panel of the night talking about “Breaking into Comics” – which saw a smaller but highly engaged audience.
After the show we ran out to Oscar’s to grab some ice cream, went back to Alan’s to hang out with the cats, and then headed off to bed.
The final day of the show, and surprisingly we all still had our voices. Another filling breakfast at Brugger’s, and we arrived quickly at the show to finish off strong. The group sold merch until just after the floor closed (of course, I escaped from the table for a quick minute to do a little shopping), and made some lasting friendships. After the show ended Russ and I hoped in the car and started off towards Chicago. We went back to his place to hang out with his family a bit, and then Beth came to pick me up – getting home just in time to catch the season finale of Downton Abbey season 3.
All in all, Anime Milwaukee is always a great show to start the convention season with, and sets the bar high for how they treat their guests. I love starting the year with this show, and have been honored to be invited back for the last several years as a guest of honor. I am always humbled and amazed by the support from the fans as well as the volunteers and staffers at the show. And the show has seen consistent growth (3,800 last year, and significantly more than that this year) year after year. I’ve been honored to be a part of that growth, and hope to continue to do so again.
If you missed Anime Milwaukee this year, you should make effort to attend next year. It’s a fun show, a profitable show, and a great way to start the convention season.
Albert helped sell books
I’m attending Anime Milwaukee this weekend as a guest of honor. However, that doesn’t mean that “THE WORK” stops just because I’m at a convention. I wanted to share some finished pages for the in-progress Albert the Alien story that will appear in Reading with Pictures volume 2: The Graphic Textbook.
The story is called “It’s a Figure of Speech,” and it’s about how English is a second language for Albert. Because of this, he takes figurative speech literally.
This story will appear in the RWP volume 2 book that was successfully funded through Kickstarter, and is due out later this year. Enjoy!
This weekend I will be a guest of honor at Anime Milwaukee, opening my convention season once again with this fantastically fun show!
For the last 5 years I’ve opened my convention season with this show, and every year it has set the bar higher and higher. It’s a show that has shown consistent growth since the first time I attended (last year they had about 2,500 attendees), and I always sell well at the show.
Last year I got to share a table with Robert Axelrod (Lord Zedd) in Artist Alley, and have dinner with Doug Walker’s (Nostalgia Critic) family. With another amazing guest line up this year, I can only imagine what fun the show has in store.
For the most part I’ll be located in Artist Alley, selling my plethora of books. I’ll have two books new to the show: both Albert the Alien. But when I’m not on the floor (or at the bar), I’ll be giving panels! Below is my panel schedule for the weekend:
- 5-6pm: Opening Ceremonies – Main Programming
- 8:30-9:30pm: An Evening with Trevor Mueller – 101C
- 11pm-12am: MST – Anime Style – Main Programming
- 7:30-8:30pm: Albert the Alien
As always, I’ll have funny stories and insightful anecdotes. And I’ll no doubt be making appearances at other panels (after Artist Alley closes for the night) throughout the weekend. There will likely be a whole lot of fun going on this weekend at the show.
I hope to see you there!
Also, if you mention my website (www.trevoramueller.com), you may get a special gift.
So, it’s been a crazy week. I’m recovering from the Norovirus (a horrible, painful stomach bug), which has definitely made things complicated. However, it hasn’t slowed me down, and that’s a good thing.
Enough about being sick. Let’s talk about awesome stuff going on:
I start my new job on Monday. I’m super excited for this challenging opportunity and advancement. I don’t normally talk about work on my blogs, so don’t expect any details, but I like to keep you guys in the loop on the goings on in my life. This is obviously a big change, and hopefully a positive opportunity.
AW YEAH COMICS:
Art and Franco launched their Kickstarter campaign for Aw Yeah Comics, a new kid-friendly self-published comic line that will be distributed through their store (and online and at conventions). In less than 24 hours, they already raised their goal of $15k, and now on day three they are blowing away their push goals in incredible and amazing ways!
If you like funny books, all-ages comics, or want to support some really awesome creators, definitely support their efforts. Below is the video.
ALBERT THE ALIEN:
I’m continuing to plug away on the scripts, as well as the website. The scripts are coming quick and easy, but the website is something new for me. I’m struggling in a few areas, but should have this thing ready to launch in time for the webcomic to go live in March.
If you check it out now it won’t look like much. Content will obviously be king, but I also want the site to have a pleasing visual look to it, and make it super easy to navigate. It’s a work in progress.
I’m gearing up for my first appearance this year, Anime Milwaukee! I’ll be a guest along with friends and fellow comic creators Russell Lissau (Shrek, Strawberry Shortcake) and Alan Evans (Rival Angels).
It’s a fun way to start the year, so I hope to see you guys there! I’m going to be telling some new stories in panels, as well as having a grand ol’ time with attendees throughout the weekend.
Video Game Review: Max Payne 3
Platforms: PS3, XBox 360, PC
Plot: Several years after Max Payne 2, we find Max working security for a rich family in San Palo. Max is still popping pills and drinking heavily – and for some reason he’s left the “comfort” and familiarity of New York City. With this departure we see the lack of gritty crime noir locations, lighting, and narration – replaced instead with a more hard boiled R-rated modern day action movie.
For a series that was defined by a John Woo action style and a crime noir tone and narrative voice, we now get a Tony Scott-inspired version of Die Hard. And that’s not all bad, it’s just not the same ol’ Max we’ve all come to know and love.
Max is charged with protecting a rich family, so of course at every possible opportunity bad guys are coming gunning for the family. And not just any bad guys: crime lords, drug dealers, human traffickers, and even corrupt cops. Hell, sometimes it feels like half of San Palo is coming after this family…and the other half is waiting for Max to drop his guard enough to shoot him in the back.
The game has a series of kidnapping attempts (and rescue attempts), failures, and yes – plenty of gun fair and bullet time action. However, it definitely has a different look and feel from previous entries in the series.
From a gameplay mechanic, the game is a little different from past entries. Bullet Time didn’t feel like a necessary component in this game as much as it did in the past. And while you’re still using a third-person shooting mechanic, you do reply on cover quite a bit in this game.
I found myself using bullet time very sporadically in this game, which may have been why I kept dying over and over again. Sure the action is intense, but this entry in the Max Payne franchise felt more like a video game than any of the previous games. Every chapter was just a set up for another kidnapping attempt, or rescue mission, or something that was going to go horribly wrong. Max’s witty dialogue is gone, so the character is less enjoyable and more “emo” than he’s ever been. I suppose this makes him more realistic (and therefore, relateable – especially from an audience that is probably unfamiliar with the character from the previous games, since they came out so long ago).
Also gone are the comic book cut scenes. I know Max Payne 2 had a mix of video and comics, which I was fine with, but this game throws the comic panels out the window completely. It does occasionally throw in some motion comic panels, but this felt more like the TV show 24 than a comic book.
Also, there’s a lot of visual noise on the screen. The game was no doubt trying to make you feel like Max felt – drunk or hung over – and unfortunately it works. I got a headache about 30 minutes into playing the game, and then started looking at the menu settings for how to shut the damn filter off.
All in all, Max Payne 3 is a fine enough game and fun – even if you haven’t played the previous entries in the series (although it helps). However, the drastic changes from the previous entries did throw me, and while I enjoyed playing this game for the most part, I’m glad I didn’t throw down a full $60 for the game when it first came out.
All in all, worth a rental.
So several people have been e-mailing me asking me what’s up. This site (which used to update 2 webcomics during the week, reviews every week, and then blog posts every other week) has gone from basically updating every day of the week to updating sparatically. I apologize for this. Allow me to shed some light on what’s been going on in the background.
ALBERT THE ALIEN:
First and foremost, I’m still hard at work on the Albert the Alien webcomic series launching sometime in March of this year. Not only am I scripting the first four issues before we launch, but I’m also trying to build the site myself – something I’ve never tried to do before.
Additionally, Gabe and I are putting the finishing touches on the RWP volume 2 pages. That book is slated to come out sometime late this year.
This project is going to be my primary focus this year in terms of comics. And let me tell you, it’s going to be AWESOME.
I’ve also been plugging away at wedding planning. We’re about 9 months out from the date, and already we have secured our reception hall, DJ, church, bridal party, and hotel. In the next month or so I’m trying to finalize contracts with the photographer, rent my tux, and finish up any number of other things that I’m not even aware need doing yet.
Because of the wedding, I am doing less convention appearances this year. However, I may supplement that with some additional library and in-store appearances. We shall see. Below is the currently confirmed list of guest appearances in 2013:
Wizard World Chicago
On top of the regular comic projects and the pending ones, I’ve also been working on some other projects. Some of which I can talk about, and others I’m not allowed to mention yet.
The first is the Top Cow Talent Hunt, which ended in December. Top Cow has said they will be announcing the winners (2 writers, 2 artists) sometime in February. However, with 1,100 entries to go through, it’s likely this process may take a while. I have my fingers crossed that my pitches win, but we shall see. I’ll likely post some details on my pitch submissions sometime in the near future for reference and learning.
Additionally, I have some other top-secret pitches I’m working on. Since I’m not planning to do a lot of self-publishing this year (I’m trying to afford a wedding and launching a webcomic, after all), I need to find some other ways to get my name in print this year. And these other pitches will hopefully accomplish just that.
THE DAY JOB:
And this will be the first official announcement on the internet…. After 3 wonderful years at OMG, I have been offered an opportunity at another agency working on a high profile account. It’s a promotion, which means more pay but more responsibility.
A new challenge and an opportunity for advancement was something I just couldn’t pass up, so while it’s a little bitter sweet that I’m leaving my current agency, I am excited (and frightened) by the prospects that await me in this new opportunity.
I appreciate all of the support you have shown me over the years, and I appreciate your continued support as I tackle what will likely be a very rewarding but challenging year.
Video Game Review: XCOM Enemy Unknown
Platforms: PS3, XBOX 360, PC
Developer: 2K Games
Plot: Unlike many of the other games I review on here, XCOM doesn’t really have a plot so much as a progressing premise. You are the commander (and they call you “The Commander”) of an elite international group called XCOM, charged with repelling an alien invasion. You are given a monthly budget (funded by council member countries), and you do research, buy equipment, and outfit your team as they go on missions. The missions are not really in any particular order (although there are some missions that you have to do in order to progress the story and unlock new items and abilities).
The game is broken up into two parts:
1) BASE MANAGEMENT
This cut-away view of your underground base (in a country you select at the beginning of the game) allows you to manage your research and resources. You get a monthly budget and have to spread that out over the course of the 30 or so days while undertaking missions. At the end of the month, you receive a report from the council on how well you’ve done, as well as more money.
You get money from the member countries automatically, but if you want to get even more credits (and you do), you need to deploy satellites over the countries.
You also want to control panic levels in member countries, and that is accomplished by undertaking missions – or shooting down UFOs hanging out above member countries, which you spot with satellites.
Basically, it’s the complex and strategic portion of the game which is both incredibly fun, and incredibly frustrating while you wait for research to complete or for an opportunity to make enough money to buy that critical piece you need.
2) SQUAD-BASED MISSIONS
This is a top-down squad-based RPG element that lets you control a squad of 4-6 (you can upgrade your squad size) and undertake missions: save citizens, secure a location, explore a downed UFO, etc.
You can customize your squad in the base mode, however squad members get certain skills at random (sniper, assault, heavy, and support). You typically want at least one of each type in your squad on a given mission. And missions are HARD. This game has permi-death – meaning a character you’ve been building up for hours may die on a given missions, and they are gone. So it behooves you to rotate your squad members to keep several that are higher level, and always rotate in some rookies so they can advance in rank.
The game is a real challenge, which is both refreshing and frustrating. The frustration comes in the lack of a tutorial that really tells you how to succeed, and it’s very easy in this game to screw up on a mission and doom yourself to failure on every mission moving forward. One wrong mistake and you kill a top-ranking squad member critical to mission success, or you don’t buy the item you really need to advance in your research trees, and you can find yourself set back quite a bit.
IGN even goes so far as you say “don’t except to beat this game your first play through.”
I admit that I found myself resetting the game from my last save location (and there are no auto saves, unless you set the game to do so – but do so at your own peril) because a favorite character would die, or I would start researching something and go on a mission only to find out I really wanted a different item researched first. I had 4 save files for this game – one for squad missions, one for base management, and two for screw ups / in-mission decisions.
The missions are random, so they don’t occur in any particular order. The level layouts vary quite a bit (I only ran into a few repeat levels during my playthrough), which keeps things pretty fresh and fun throughout. However, this game is NOTORIOUS for throwing curve balls at you. And it’s when you become over-confident in your abilities that you are most vulnerable.
It only takes one wrong move – one squad member running into an unknown area and catching enemy fire, or one senior squad member to get flanked and have all your rookies panic – to change the tide of the game completely.
And you will die. You will lose characters. And you will not win every encounter with aliens. Especially UFO mini-games, where you have to shoot them down. Your regular planes may hold you over for the first month (maybe), but after that you really need to upgrade them and quick.
Resources are few in XCOM, and your need to upgrade your stuff is so imperative to your success. But you need to figure out how best to do that for your game.
For example: During my playthrough I didn’t focus enough on satellite production, and didn’t prioritize covering an entire continent to get the bonus for giving full continent coverage. Because of this, I lost almost all of Asia in just two months. I was banking on missions coming up to lower the panic levels in the countries, but Asian missions weren’t popping up for me. There was nothing I could do, and suddenly a large chunk of my revenue dried up.
Unfortunately because my PS3 died, I haven’t gotten to beat XCOM yet. Instead, I’ve taken this time to step away from the game for a little bit while I figure out my next plan of attack. And then I’m going back into the game with a vengeance. And this time – I’m going to protect our planet!
If you like a challenge, strategy games, or shooting aliens you NEED to buy this game.