*First things first: Ken is right. To all of the bloggers out there in Florida, really everyone out there, our thoughts are with you, and we hope you stay safe!

*I have been totally distracted by this game, "Loonyland: Halloween Hill", from the excellent independent game developer Hamumu Software. It’s a top-down third person "Legend of Zelda" type action/adventure where you wander around a single large environment (with the occasional dungeon crawl), fighting monsters and picking up items and gaining abilities by completing small quests, which then open up more of the main world to access. It’s compulsively playable with a good balance between regional difficulty and the ongoing collection of power-ups, and a generous amount of optional sub-quests to fart around with. I really love this type of game, and this is a good example. You should download the demo at the link above, so your free time can also be greedily devoured.

*A tidbit overheard recently in the Real World:

"Statistics are like underwear: what they show is really nice, but what they hide is vital."

*I went to an outdoor picnic today. One of those big things where there’s booths set up with vendors selling food and crafts and stuff. I love those things; I like having local food vendors all grouped together for a few days so I can get a sense of what they’ve got and how their stuff is. But I had wandered into this picnic totally by accident (I was in the area for something else), so I had already eaten and all I got was a birch beer. Still, it was nice to check out all of the events going on (or about to go on from the looks of the stage near the front of the place). A lot of political organizations were set up; the local reform party booth was manned by two lovely old ladies. Farther down, I was surprised and perhaps a bit dismayed to hear the distinct tune of "God Bless the USA"... usually that song only turns up in times of national trouble so I briefly assumed that some calamity had occurred, but it was only the stereo at the Young Republicans booth. I didn’t see any Democrats set up for a permanent spot, but people were walking around with Kerry buttons and stickers affixed to their person, so everyone must have been aware of the political nature of the gathering but me, the accidental cheapskate tourist with my extra dark birch beer clutched in my sweating palm.

*Hm? Comics?

Sof’ Boy and Friends #3

Perhaps the most sporadically published ongoing floppy series I know of, "Sof’ Boy and Friends" is the creation of Archer Prewitt, also an active musician. The last "Sof’ Boy" book to be released was the 2000 Drawn and Quarterly "Sof’ Boy Econo Combo" which collected the two prior adventures of the doughy, smirking imp under one cover. This new installment is also from D&Q.

The title character is a happy-go-lucky white blob of goop, who always enjoys life to the fullest. It helps that he’s totally invincible, if physically malleable. But nothing can drain the sunshine from Sof’ Boy’s life, even as he wanders through the grittiest cities and the filthiest junkyards. The most compelling aspect of the book is the environment Prewitt creates for his simple hero to prance through; the city and its surrounding area are rendered in precise detail, with every last drop of grime clinging to passing trucks in loving color. And what use of color! Prewitt, with Sam Prekop and Max Crawford, lathers the page with perfectly appropriate artificial hues. It’s like each color corresponds directly to something that would look perfectly natural in real life, creating a viable but popping bright world; coupled with Prewitt’s architectural detail and talent for human caricature, each page represents Sof’ Boy’s droopy-grinned point of view.

This installment has our hero making friends with several animals; Sof’ Boy has always been an ally to the beasts of the field, but Ollie the dog and Herbie the cat even share his grin, and the drowsy slant of his eyes. Together, they plan to distribute lots of money to the good citizens of the local slum, but human nature and Sof’ Boy’s noble intentions aren’t quite eye-to-eye... or are they? Either way, Sof’ Boy cannot be cannot be stopped by overwhelming evidence of human avarice, just as he remains resilient to bodily trauma, his head on page 10 crushed in the jaws of a wild animal like a stress ball, his skin bunching into luxurious rolls of, well, Sof’. But don’t worry kids: he’ll be ok in a few pages!

Whether all of this infectious happiness will be worth the $4.95 price tag is up for grabs. You get 24 pages of story, plus two one-page gags (if I am not mistaken, previously seen in the recent "McSweeney’s") and a merchandise page. And also keep in mind that it’s an infectious happiness mixed with ample amounts of cruelty and vice, but that makes the infection all the more welcome to the hospitality of my comics bloodstream.