Saturday, March 31, 2012

Coming Back to Golf--Part 3: This Season Will Be Brought to You By Ram Golf and Sports Authority

After not being too impressed with Dick’s Sporting Goods during my first club-shopping outing, I headed over to The Sports Authority and had much better luck.

As mentioned in my previous post, I want to try and keep the cost of this season as low as possible. It was fortunate then that Sports Authority was having a killer golf sale, and I grabbed a complete set of Ram G-Force golf clubs for $140, which includes a 2-year replacement guarantee. Cheap clubs have a higher likelihood of breaking, and at least now I have a little peace of mind with that. I also picked up a nice pair of FootJoy golf shoes for $45, and I got a great deal on a glove and some new golf balls for about $12.

All told, I spent $207, am I’m now fully equipped to start the season. I plan on hitting the driving range soon, at which time I’ll write a bit about how the new clubs actually perform.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Coming Back to Golf--Part 2: Club Shopping

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am in the market for a new set of clubs. I sold my old ones to the person who had been using them, and I want a fresh start.

I went to Dick’s sporting Goods today, as they are having their big golf sale this week. While I was drawn to the expensive clubs while browsing, I have made the decision that I am going bargain basement with my re-entry to golf. It’s an expensive hobby as it is, and I’m not sure how committed I’ll be until I actually get out there and start playing. Not to mention, I was never an amazing golfer to begin with, so I have no business looking at the high end stuff.

Dick’s actually had a couple of sets in the cheap section. There’s a 16-piece set of Acuity clubs for $149 (marked down from $299), which are Dick’s no-name brand that they manufacture. All of the user reviews I’ve read online have been mixed, and I’ve read more than a few that mentioned broken clubs. The next step up from the Acuity set is another Dick’s exclusive brand, a Walter Hagan 17-piece set for $199 (marked down from $399). Not only does this set look better, the clubs feel less flimsy than the Acuity clubs. I couldn’t find any reviews on this set, as it’s new for 2012. After playing around with both sets for awhile, I decided not to commit to anything today, and check out a few other places in the area.

One of the things that frustrates me about club shopping (and I remember this from the last time I bought clubs), is that I can’t find any major golf outlets or sites that review the low-end stuff. It’s all user reviews. Golf has kind of a snobby culture to it to begin with, and all of the news outlets and review sites focus on the higher end equipment. In reality, most people who are just starting out are buying the lower end equipment. My first set of clubs were hand me downs from my grandfather (a decent but old set of Jack Nicklaus irons), but the first set I bought were a low-end set of Dunlops. And I loved those clubs--I played them for years and they took a beating on the golf course. I did finally manage to break my five iron, but it was at the driving range, after a really bad shot. I had also left the clubs in my car through two winters. My point is, a lot of people have to buy the low-end clubs just to get into the game, and there should be a resource out there where someone actually gives a thorough review to entry-level equipment.

I was thinking a lot about this, and as I try to get back into golf, I will be trying to find bargains wherever I can, and documenting them here. clubs, balls, gloves, shoes--you name it. I will try to find cheap but decent equipment and I’ll write about whether or not it’s any good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming Back to Golf

Up until about 2007, I was an avid golfer. I played 6-7 times a month during golf season, and consistently broke 100. I wasn’t great, but I loved the game, and I cherished every opportunity to play.

What really drove my love for the game was a yearly golf trip that I took with a buddy of mine. For nine straight years, we would head down to Florida in April or May and golf as much as possible for 5-7 days. We’d play 36 holes a day whenever we could. We’d eat, sleep and breathe golf the entire time. Over the nine years we went down there, we hit Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and more. We played everything from TPC’s to the famed Doral, and all courses in between. Those trips are times I will never forget. And the best part was that by the time we got back home, golf season was just getting underway in New England, and we were already in midseason form.

Sadly, 2006 was the last time we were able to take our Florida trip. A combination of factors lead to us being unable to make the trip come together in 2007, though we tried until the last minute. I was so dejected that I didn’t even pick up a club until July of that year. When my second child came along that summer, golf took a back seat, and I’ve never really been back. Over the course of the last five years, I’ve probably played a total of ten rounds of golf. My love of golf was so tied to that trip that when it went away, I just couldn’t get back into the game.

For the past five years, life has kept me pretty busy, in the form of two children, a wife and the podcast I’ve been doing since 2006. But over the past several months, I’ve been feeling a pull back toward the game that I used to love so much. So this past week, I made a decision--I’m coming back to golf this year. I sold my old clubs to a friend who’d been borrowing them for the past couple years. I’m getting a new set, and I’m approaching the game as if for the first time. I have no idea what to expect from this upcoming season, but I am going to keep a journal of sorts here on the blog. I am hoping to really find that love of the game again, and perhaps even introduce it to my kids.

So stay tuned, as I’m going club shopping in the next week.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Infinite Comics--Marvel's Next Big Thing

At a recent South by Southwest (SXSW) event, Marvel revealed two major new digital initiatives as part of what they are dubbing the Marvel ReEvolution. Billed as the “future of comic publishing,” the ReEvolution aims to provide a deeper experience to comic readers, and to add value to both the print and digital versions of Marvel’s comics. Both of the announced digital initiatives will be kicking off alongside Marvel’s upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. In this article, I’m going to focus on the first digital initiative, called Infinite Comics, and then I’ll come back in a second one to talk about Marvel AR, the second initiative. 

Marvel’s Infinite Comics is a new line of digital comics that are built specifically with tablet viewing in mind. Currently, most digital comics are electronic versions of their print counterparts, resized or cut into panels for viewing on a tablet device. Based on the size of the device used for reading, seeing a whole page often involves scrolling or zooming out. With Infinite Comics, the creators will design stories for the digital platform from the beginning, which allows them to both ensure readers are seeing the whole picture as well as use time as a tool to enhance the way a reader experiences the story. It sounds more complicated than it is, and it’s also easier to conceptualize when you see it. Mark Waid recently wrote an article showing off some tech he’s been working on, and I think this is basically what you’ll see with Infinite Comics (Be warned though, it's for mature audiences only):


I think having Mark Waid intimately involved with Marvel’s new digital initiative makes a ton of sense, as he’s been one of the creators who’s really embraced the idea of digital comics and their possibilities for a while now. And from the quotes coming out of that panel at SXSW, it’s clear that Marvel considers this initiative to be their Next Big Thing. Here’s a couple snippets from Quesada and Waid:

Waid: "I think it [will help] casual readers understand more fully the power of the medium," Waid expresses. "What we’re doing isn’t bargain basement animation or print pages simply transcribed to the screen—it’s all the storytelling tools of comics still under the reader’s control. Page composition and design are still super important, as they’ve always been, but allowing artists to design for a more intimate space allows for the possibility of a surprise with every click."

Quesada: "Also, we’re no longer confined by the limitations of the page. While we still are confined in a way by the size of a tablet screen in the same way that we have to deal with the physical size of a page, the screen is capable of so much more. You can layer your story in ways that are impossible with a physical comic." 

As someone who has followed the rise of digital comics pretty closely, I’m excited by the fact that Marvel is really starting to embrace the idea and potential of digital. This particular initiative seems to be geared much more to bringing in new readers than converting print readers to digital. What Marvel seems to be minimizing here is that existing print comic readers like the whole-page format, and may look at this new format as a fundamental change in the way they like to read their comics. For me personally, I think this is just one of the ways to use digital, and there are other great examples out there as well. As I raved about before, Four Star Studios’ Double Feature comics offer the full-page experience, as well as creator commentary and the ability to toggle between pencils, inks and letters on the fly. I’ve still yet to see a good implementation of audio into a digital comic, and I think there’s tons of potential there as well. My point is, there’s room for a lot of innovation when it comes to digital comics, and it’s good to see Marvel joining the fray. Just don’t let them fool you into believing they are the leaders of the digital revolution, as the party started well before they got there.

Next time, I’ll take a look at Marvel’s other big announcement from SXSW, Marvel AR, which I think is aimed much more at existing print readers as well as comic retailers.

Note: The first offering from Infinite Comics will be AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 INFINITE, a tie-in story starring Nova, written by Mark Waid with art by Stuart Immonen and Marte Gracia, available for purchase on the Marvel Comics app free with the redemption code found in print copies of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 or included with the purchase of the digital version. It will also be available to purchase on its own for 99 cents.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Move to Digital Comics--Part 3

Over the past few months, I've been discussing my transition from print comics to digital. By the end of 2012, I expect to be buying almost all of my monthly comics digitally, and only purchasing a few longtime favorites and back issues to fill holes in collection in print. You can read my first couple of posts about this transition here and here.

Anyway, this past weekend I got a big box of comics from DCBS (Discount Comic Book Service) that comprised about three months worth of comics. As I pulled the huge stack out of the box, it dawned on me that this was the last big batch of print comics I would be getting. I've already pared my last couple DCBS orders to a fraction of what they used to be, and the snafu that caused the delay in this shipment likely won't happen again.

For a moment I was sad, but when I started going through the pile, I realized that it was for the best. Because this order was a few months worth of comics, a good chunk of the issues I recevied were from titles that I have since stopped reading. In fact, I would say that almost half of them were from sereis that I gave the axe, for no other reason than they just weren't worth the money I was spending on them. One of the byproducts of this move to digital has been the realization of just how many comics I was collecting out of momentum or brand loyalty. Titles that weren't worth the $3 or $4 I was spending, but I kept reading because I was afraid I would miss something, or because I am a completionist.

But not anymore. By narrowing my list of comics I am still buying in print, I have also become much more discerning about what I am buying in general, be it print or digital. Even at a $.99 digital price point, a book needs to really grab me and hold onto me now in order for me to keep buying it. Granted, I'm much more willing to give new books a try at a lower digital price point, but they had better be good, or they get the axe.

I wonder if many other comic readers are now going through a similar thought process. I can't be the only one. And if comic readers across the board are starting to care less about brands and more about quality content, then publishers and creators will be under more pressure to ensure that what they put out is a quality product. In that way, the digital revolution may not be the death knell of the print comic industry, but instead a force for quality control.

More than anything else, I think what's in trouble in terms of the print industry is single issues. I would argue that the whole industry would be better off if single print issues went away aItogether, and trades were the only print option. If managed correctly, publishers could potentially make more money this way, and readers would often pay twice for the same content--once digitally, and then again in print.

Take me, for example. I just read the first five issues of Animal Man digitally, paying $1.99 per issue on ComiXology. The book was such a good read that I decided it was worth getting in print, so I ordered the first trade. Essentially, I have rewarded both DC and the book's creative team for putting out a quality product by paying for it in two different formats. Of course, that assumes everyone is compensated appropriately for both print and digital sales, which is another discussion entirely. But the point is, I am living proof that offering a digital discount can lead directly to print sales. So another thing I've learned through this transition so far is that while I will be moving away from buying monthly comics in print, I could end up buying more trades in addition to the monthly comics I buy digitally.