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Help Test the Future WordPress Editor

Last week, WordCamp Europe 2017 was filled with lots of opportunities to make WordPress better, including the announcement that the future WordPress Editor (codenamed Gutenberg) is now available for use as a plugin. The future of WordPress editing will be built on positionable blocks, where each block can be pretty much any kind of content, like this gallery:

There have already been plenty of great posts that go in depth on the current state of Gutenberg, so I won’t bore you with the details here, but the short version is that folks who are new to WordPress may find this to be an intuitive experience while long-time WordPress users may encounter a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, Gutenberg won’t replace the existing WordPress editor until WordPress 5.0, so there’s plenty of time to install that plugin and start contributing.

P.S. This post was originally written with Gutenberg 0.2.0 on WordPress 4.8, but required a few tweaks after publishing, so please help us test this and contribute to make it better. 🙂

WordPress 4.8 Released

WordPress 4.8 has been released! This release introduces new widgets for images, videos, audio, and rich text, as well as new link boundaries to cure editor frustrations and a new Dashboard widget which displays nearby WordPress events!

346 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg and Jeffrey Paul. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.8 has been out for about 9 hours, and has already been downloaded 1,315,250 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Video

Earth Day, 2017

Today is Earth Day, a day to reflect on this planet we call home, so it’s a great day to start saving the environment for free and donating to The Conservation Fund.

Also, take the time to consider ways in which you can help the environment yourself with just a few changes to your routine, like switching out your lights for LED bulbs, walking or biking to closer destinations rather than driving, planting a tree or two, and even something as simple as properly separating your recyclables from your trash.

Today is also the global March for Science, so it’s a great day to spend some time outdoors and possible even share your advocacy for science. If today isn’t such a great day for you to enjoy our world outside, at least enjoy this video.

Klaus

Only one man has to work at Yuletime, and that’s me. There are gifts waiting for your children. Tell them the Santa wears the red and white of Grimsvig. White for the snow of our homeland, red for the blood of the working people who built this town. Your colors.

Klaus is a surprisingly good tale from writer Grant Morrison and artist Dan Mora. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have a read a folklore adaptation or seen a Santa Claus movie that wasn’t even worth the time spent doing so. It’s rare for a creator to take an established icon of folklore and do something completely different with it, and when they do, it’s usually terrible. Klaus, billed as “How Santa Claus Began,” is different.

The imaginative origin story follows a banished soldier who returns to find his hometown under tyrannical control. Fueled by a deep sense of honor and guided by benevolent spirits, Klaus uses his skills as a woodworker and soldier to free his hometown, bring joy to its children, and face off with the fearsome Krampus. The characters are well-developed and believable while the stakes are high and ever-present, both a rarity in such stories, and yet it never manages to lose a subtle sense of levity.

I bought Klaus heavily discounted on impulse simply because the art is great. I didn’t expect much of the story, but I was pleasantly surprised, and found it to be original, fun, engaging, and not heavy-handed in the slightest. The premise is ridiculous, and yet it works beautifully. If you’re looking for a fun and imaginative origin of a folklore icon, Klaus won’t disappoint.

Descender

I’m your creator and designer, but that does not make me your family. You have no real family. You aren’t alive. You do understand that, don’t you?

Descender is a beautiful series from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen, and in many ways, a coming of age tale both for our young protagonist and civilization itself. Set at some point in the very distant future, when many species have colonized the stars and mostly work together, the story follows a young robot who may have an ancestral connection to the robots who suddenly appeared and wiped out hundreds of millions of lives before vanishing just ten years prior.

The writing is engaging and reminiscent of many of today’s great provocative TV series, while the art is captivating and reminiscent of finely detailed water colors. Throughout the story, you’ll find yourself growing attached to the young robot who seems set on a path to outgrow his programming, while remaining constantly aware of the terrible toll the rest of the galaxy paid for that growth. The story is not as heavy-handed as it seems, rather it is presented with a balance that is delicately maintained throughout, accompanied by an eclectic cast and spread across an energetic plot.

Descender has been running as a monthly series since March of 2015, with three volumes already published and a fourth on the way. You definitely won’t regret diving in, and I’m sure you’ll want to stick around to see how it ends. I certainly do.

Internet Archive: No More 404s

Just a little bit over a year ago, I wrote about the Internet Archive’s Smart 404 Handler, which aimed to help site owners put an end to useless 404 Not Found errors on their own site by offering a link to the content (if available) on the Wayback Machine. Now, the Internet Archive has set out to solve the problem of useless 404 Not Found errors for everyone with a new extension for Firefox, for Chrome, and for Safari!

With the extension installed, if you encounter a 404 (or really any from the range of “unavailable” errors) for content that exists in the archive, you’ll see this very handy pop-up:

As that button describes, clicking it will take you to the archived page, so you’ll never have to wonder about what you were missing. But, that’s not all! Do you feel like a page looks a little bit different today? Are you feeling nostalgic for how pages looked when they were first published? Just open the extension in your browser’s toolbar for even more fun:

Thanks to this new extension, and the Wayback Machine’s hundreds of billions of archived pages, the experience of missing out on lost content could finally be a thing of the past! Also, if you find this extension useful, don’t forget that the Internet Archive needs donations to be able to provide all of that for free.

Secret War

You are heroes. More than me. Maybe one day you’ll look around and you’ll see the world like I have to, and you’ll know I did the right thing. Or at least you’ll understand why I did it.

Secret War, a masterpiece by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto, is the best graphic novel ever produced by Marvel Comics. Blinded by diplomacy and arrogance, the United States government refuses to acknowledge the imminent danger as a foreign threat continues to grow. How far will one man go to defend his country? The decisions made, and their consequences, will forever change one of Marvel’s most iconic legends.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones return home to find a strange woman standing by the window. Suddenly, Cage’s apartment explodes in a bright, white light. Cage takes the brunt of the explosion, sparing his wife-to-be. He is rushed to the hospital where he lapses into a coma and is diagnosed with severe trauma to his internal organs. He needs emergency surgery, but the doctors have no way of breaking his steel-hard skin. Cage’s fate is now in the hands of God, and the question on top of everyone’s list is, “Why?”

When Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate), arrives, he is the first to be accused by Jones. Her question, pointedly stated, “Do you know who did this to him? I mean, why are you here? See what I’m saying?”

One year ago, Fury noticed an increase in the quality and power of technology held by some of the world’s deadliest villains, and he was shocked to learn that the funding for that technology came from Latveria, a new Latveria that had supposedly rehabilitated itself in the eyes of the world after the death of its former dictator, Dr. Victor Von Doom. Despite clear evidence of the threat, the President refused to accept the reality of the situation. After Doom’s death, the United States had sent several million dollars in aid to Latveria and even arranged the election of the country’s current Prime Minister, Lucia Von Bardas. The President assured Fury that, if there were a problem, it would be dealt with diplomatically. To Fury, this was unacceptable. He had presented clear evidence that the United States was in danger, and the federal government has refused to acknowledge it. For Fury, there was no choice between diplomacy and the safety of innocent people. He couldn’t let this happen.

Fury rapidly assembled a team of the world’s greatest, yet most misunderstood heroes: Luke Cage, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Black Widow, and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson. With no knowledge of the mission at hand, they departed under false identities and rendezvoused with Fury to prepare for the overthrow of Latveria’s government.

In the present, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) has been having nightmares of himself and other heroes fighting hordes of technology-powered soldiers. He joins Matt Murdock (Daredevil) on a trip to see Cage at the hospital when they are suddenly attacked by two technology-powered villains. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers (Captain America) barges into Cage’s hospital room after being attacked in front of his home. He is shocked to see what has happened to his friend, and immediately lashes out at Fury screaming, “Damn you for what you did to us!”

Something happened on that mission one year ago. Something that only Fury and Rogers remember. And those who were harmed during that operation, those who lost the war, are back for revenge. What was Fury willing to do to protect his country, and will he be able to face the consequences of his actions? Does the end ever justify the means?

Brian Michael Bendis’ story is a dark tale packed with mystery, drama, and action. The dark, emotional, and character-driven drama of Secret War has led it to be agreeably titled as, “The Darkest Chapter in Marvel Universe History”.

Gabriele Dell’Otto’s art is beautifully painted on every page. It brings the emotion of every scene to life and captures the darkness and characterization of Bendis’ story in a way that I have not seen since Alex Ross’ work on Kingdom Come.

Secret War is a must-have for any fan of great artwork and a great story. It is a tale of right and wrong, of sacrifice, and of consequence, the ramifications of which will be felt for years to come.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on October 22, 2006.

Pathfinder

The Berserkers charge like demons from the depths of hell. Plunging from the cliff, or falling prey to the Dragon Men? Ghost makes his choice.

I seldom read and rarely enjoy graphic novel adaptations of movies, but Pathfinder is a visual feast from artist Christopher Shy and writer Laeta Kalogridis that is far superior to the film itself.

When director Marcus Nispel contacted artist Christopher Shy and expressed his interest in a film depicting a war between Vikings and Native Americans, Shy began to produce seemingly endless pages of concept art. So much concept art in fact, that they used all of it to produce the graphic novel adaptation.

The tale itself, with the exception of the overall concept of a war between Vikings and Native Americans, is unfortunately quite plain. A shipwrecked Viking longboat is attacked by the local tribe who slaughter everyone, except for the young son of their leader. The boy is raised by the tribe and eventually emerges as an unlikely hero when the Vikings return.

The graphic novel itself features Christopher Shy’s beautifully painted art in every single panel, and with an average of seven words per page, one could say that the story lets the art stand on its own. As the story is told from the tribe’s point of view, Shy made a great effort to realistically portray the Native Americans while also portraying the Vikings as almost faceless eight foot tall monsters wielding swords and axes the size of an average person.

The characters are detailed and imaginative, the scenery is vast, and the color palate and shading perfectly accent the mood in each panel. With each page being worthy of framing, this is a graphic novel that you must have in your collection.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on September 9, 2010.

Batman: Hush

Tell me Batman, you let one Robin die. Want to go for two?

Batman: Hush is a dark and captivating tale by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee. Batman: Hush takes you from the darkest corners of the Dark Knight’s mind to the deepest depths of his soul as he faces his toughest challenge yet. When nothing is as it seems, who can you trust, and will you be able to live with the truth?

The Dark Knight was born of tragedy. The loss of Bruce Wayne’s parents forged an iron-hearted soul within him, one which sought to punish those who would bring tragedy to others, but this dark soul within Wayne was not invulnerable. It would be changed again by tragedy, on the day that both Bruce Wayne and Batman mourned the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, a death in the family.

Years later, Batman flies through the night sky in pursuit of Catwoman, when a Batarang screams through the night and severs the only tether between the Dark Knight and the sky. He falls hundreds of feet into the maw of Gotham City. Battered, broken, and barely conscious, the Dark Knight is not without his protectors. He is safely returned to the Batcave and diagnosed with a near-fatal skull fracture. Aware of his condition, Batman taps the name “Thomas Elliot” in Morse Code.

Thomas Elliot, a brilliant surgeon and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, brings him back from his near-death experience. And, for a while, everything appears to be normal. Even a long-desired romance begins to blossom between Batman and Catwoman, as secrets are shared and identities are revealed. In the midst of a romance that should have happened long ago, the Dark Knight is caught off guard by the actions and manipulations of a mysterious man who knows the Dark Knight’s most closely guarded secrets, a man known only as Hush. Batman’s quest for the identity of Hush will bring him to face all of his arch-nemeses, the diamond-crushing strength of Superman, and even the grave of a long-buried companion.

Batman: Hush is a dark, gripping, and powerful tale, written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Jim Lee. Loeb’s captivating story takes the Dark Knight on a journey of discovery that leads him to face all of his fears and re-defines the depths of his soul, while Lee’s artwork brings the Dark Knight to life in a Noir-ish atmosphere with characterizations and emotions that practically tell the story for themselves.

The story and artwork of Batman: Hush combine to make a reading experience that feels more realistic than your average comic. The story is immersive, with enough detail and depth to make you feel as if you relate to each character and event in some way, and enough mystery and intrigue to captivate your attention throughout the entire novel.

Batman: Hush is a must-have for any fan of the Dark Knight. The Absolute Edition of Batman: Hush, released in October of 2005, features all twelve issues collected in one hardcover volume with oversized border-less pages and makes the perfect addition to any graphic novel collection.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on September 1, 2006.

The Death and Return of Superman

Like weary boxers who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew finally fell.

The Death and Return of Superman, the omnibus edition, is a colossal masterpiece from the collective minds of Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, and Gerard Jones. In 746 detailed pages, it deals directly with what it would take to kill a hero, what the world would be like without that hero, and what it would take to bring a hero back to life.

There has been a sharp increase in death and return stories throughout the comic industry, but this is one of the first and by far the best. There are some key rules to a good death and return story that have been ignored lately. First, your hero must either fall to his physical equal (Superman vs. Doomsday), a villain specifically designed to destroy him (Spider-Man vs. Morlun), or be taken by surprise in a standard assassination (Captain America vs. a sniper). Second, you must show that the loss of the hero was significant to the world he left behind. Third, bringing the hero back from the dead must be struggle. Death is permanent. Even if death can be escaped in the world of comics, it should not be easy.

The tale begins with Doomsday, a seemingly unstoppable killing machine, plowing his way through various cities. He defeats various heroes until his rampage is halted in Metropolis by Superman. After a long and destructive battle, the two each land one final blow. Doomsday dies instantly, and Superman gives in to his injuries after receiving assurance of Doomsday’s defeat.

The world mourns the loss, various gangs and villains make grabs for power, the existing heroes struggle to keep order, and four new individuals rise to claim the mantle of Superman. The Man of Steel, or Steel for short, is the first to appear. A construction worker who owes his life to Superman, Steel builds a suit of armor and sets out to establish order in the name of Superman. The Last Son of Krypton is the second to appear. Bearing a striking resemblance to Superman and claiming to have his memories as well, this Superman subscribes a far more lethal form of justice and is later revealed to be the Eradicator, a sentient Kryptonian weapon. The Metropolis Kid is the next to appear. Dubbed “Superboy” by the media, he is the result of an attempt to clone Superman, but escaped before he had reached maturity. The last to appear is The Man of Tomorrow. The most convincing of the four, this Cyborg Superman is proven to be a DNA match to Superman with Kryptonian technology to replace most of his damaged body.

After months of winning the world’s favor, the Cyborg Superman eventually proves to be the villain of the latter half of the story. He was Hank Henshaw, an astronaut who’s exposure to cosmic rays eventually resulted in the death of the entire crew and his consciousness forever being locked in a computer system. Over the years, he developed a paranoid ideal that Superman was responsible for the tragedy. Adapting and evolving, Henshaw eventually constructed a body from Kryptonian technology and DNA stolen from Superman himself. He seeks to turn the entire planet into a mechanized war world and begins with Coast City, leveling it and turning it into a massive engine. Though he blames the Eradicator for this destruction, the supermen and most of the former Superman’s allies direct their attention towards the Cyborg Superman.

Meanwhile, Superman’s resurrection has been playing out like a brilliantly crafted symphony behind the scenes. Initially, the Eradicator had stolen Superman’s body and placed it in a Kryptonian regeneration chamber for use as a conduit to the Sun’s energy. Later, after suffering a fatal heart attack, Jonathan Kent managed to rescue Superman’s soul from the afterlife. Now complete with a soul, Superman’s body lay in the regeneration chamber, waiting and recovering. Superman, powerless but armed with a few very big guns, joined the rest of the heroes in the final battle. After the Eradicator apparently sacrificed his life to save Krypton’s true last son, Superman’s powers returned, and he defeated the Cyborg Superman.

Though I managed to summarize this tale in only a few paragraphs, it truly is a massive undertaking. No other story has managed to capture the death and return of a hero as well as The Death and Return of Superman.

I am very glad that DC decided to carry forward most of the elements established in this story, rather than discard them as most similar stories have done. Steel carried his own series for four years and is now prone to regular appearances in various Superman titles. The Eradicator enjoyed a brief stint as a hero with the Outsiders and has since been flipping between the hero and villain roles, though it is unknown if each incarnation is the original Eradicator or another sentient Kryptonian weapon. Superboy, aka Kon-El aka Conner Kent, is now an official member of the Kent family and a major character in both the Teen Titans and various Superman titles. The Cyborg Superman, now simply the Cyborg, is one of DC’s most recognizable recurring villains. The destruction of Coast City eventually led to Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s mental breakdown and destructive rampage as the host of the entity Parallax. This particular storyline and its effects lasted for years and was eventually resolved in Green Lantern: Rebirth.

The Death and Return of Superman is a massive tale, filling 746 pages. It was written across 1992 and 1993, though its effects are still felt today throughout the entire DC universe. This is how you do a death and return story. You don’t take shortcuts. You make the hero’s death believable, you spend time showing the impact of his loss, and you make his return as much of a struggle as his death.

The omnibus edition of The Death and Return of Superman is a must-have for any fan of the DC universe. The complexity and detail of the story will be an engaging read for days, if not weeks, depending on your reading habits. To date, The Death and Return of Superman remains the gold-standard for all death and return stories.

This review was previously published on Splash Panel on April 3, 2010.