Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Star Stuff, Superheroes, Sci-fi, Scares, Silliness, Smeg, and the Supernatural

Saturday, 16 January 2021


Anniversary art by Jeremy Hawkins

!! Who'd have thunk it? 

I've spent way longer on this blog than I have on any single piece of paid employment in my life, prior to my career-ending aneurysm in 2005.

Looking back on the last year, productivity, sadly, was down for the second year running.

I published only 1,339 posts, compared to 1,516 in 2019 and 1,744 in 2018, but, if you've been keeping abreast of the blogging world, you know this wasn't entirely my fault.

Let's put aside the general craziness of the real world for a moment and focus, instead, on the rocky road that HeroPress - and all bloggers - had to navigate in 2020 ... with Blogger's massive overhaul of its user interface.

There were long stretches of 2020 when I seriously thought this would be the end of HeroPress

However, I'm not going to flog this dead horse anymore, what's done is done (whether we wanted it or not).

The increased fiddliness of basic functions, such as inserting pictures and videos into posts (a regular part of the HeroPress norm), has seen me reduce my old "five-posts-a-day" routine down to three, and I'm now keeping track of "available slots" on my blog in a dedicated notebook, with scribbles for the "morning, daytime, and evening" posts.

As far as I can tell, for the consumer, the reader of blogs, nothing has changed, so was it worth all the hoopla? Who knows?

At least it means Google/Blogger is interested in this free service enough to keep updating it, so, broadly speaking, that bodes well for the future of blogging (even if these changes forced a number of users to jump ship).

As ever, I'd like to thank my incredibly patient wife, Rachel, for continuing to encourage me to keep on blogging, supporting my endeavours, and turning a blind eye to the frequent cosplay picture posts that appear on the site.

I'd also like to thank the incredibly talented graphic designer/artist Jeremy Hawkins, of Being Retro and Six Strings, for his Baby Yoda-themed poster (above) celebrating this 14th anniversary landmark.

This is the seventh year Jeremy has created the perfect poster for my anniversary celebrations, so I hope you'll all go and check out what he's working on.

This is also a good time to give a shout out to my online peers who help keep me sane and who've looked kindly on this blog in last year or so.

These are people I know I can turn to for inspiration or assistance, people who've never even met me and only know me from my seemingly incoherent and ill-informed ramblings.

Great souls such as:

And thank you all, readers old and new, for ploughing through my nonsense and hopefully popping back on a semi-regular basis.

And let's not overlook the inspirational job Jeremy 'frothsof' Smith of Thought Eater fame does; after an extended break, he has returned with his Humpday Blog-O-Rama (now renamed the Humpday RPG Show) podcast, rounding up items of interest from gaming blogs around da Interwebz.

The end of last year also saw the resurrection of James Maliszewski's legendary, yet long-dormant, Grognardia blog, so I'm hoping these are the green shoots of an impending resurgence in RPG-realted blogging.

However, in the meantime I'd like to encourage you to check out my informal pro-blogging 'campaign', urging you all to Support Your Local Blogger.

I'm not talking about financially (although I'm sure that won't be unwelcome), I mean just letting them know you read what they're putting out.

If you visit a blog, leave a message, a comment. Your words might just encourage that blogger to keep on blogging for another 14 years... or longer...

The Villagers

A scientist finds herself lost on an alien planet. All she has is a case with some basic tools and a broken wrist communicator. The rest of her crew is gone and something has been stalking her for several days, never getting any closer. What is it waiting for? What does it want?

Starring Shannon Ashlyn

Written and Directed by Joseph Vasey
Produced by Jo-Anne Brechin and Joseph Vasey

Friday, 15 January 2021

WandaVision Is Unlike Anything We Have Previously Seen In The MCU...

The first two episodes of the MCU's first foray into streaming scripted drama, WandaVision, materialised on Disney+ today.

And it should come as no surprise to learn that it looks like Marvel Studios has another hit on its hands.

While, I'm not sure how accessible it would be to someone not au fait with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large, if you have Disney+ you have access to all the Marvel movies released to date, so there's no excuse for not being up to speed.

That said, WandaVision - for Marvel's debut streaming show - is a bold and unique vision (excuse the pun), seemingly with more in common with Patrick McGoohan's seminal '60s show The Prisoner than an archetypal superhero slugfest.

Without any exposition, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) aka Scarlet Witch and Vision (Paul Bettany) - who everyone saw die in Avengers: Endgame - are now newlyweds in a black-and-white 1950's sitcom, complete with laugh track and hokey cornball plots about domesticity, mishaps, miscommunications etc

Obviously, there's something else going on: odd glimpses of colour (primarily red) and intrusions from the 'outside world' that momentarily take Wanda out of her show.

Each episode also features an in-universe, mid-episode, break with a faux advert (featuring the same pair of actors each time), sporting familiar branding (one Stark, one Hydra).

The SWORD logo (from the comics) also pops up at one key point.

If you've seen the trailers then you probably have theories about what's actually happening to Wanda and Vision, and I was half-expecting the curtain to be pulled back in the first episode, but the show has taken the brave step to draw out the confusing mindgames as long as possible.

The first episode revolves around Vision's employer coming over for a meal at our protagonists' home (that they've forgotten about), while the second sees them conjuring up a magic act for a neighbourhood charity show ("for the children").

WandaVision has a David Lynch-like knack for giving American suburban life sinister undercurrents, but without going full horror.

There's a change in the status quo at the end of episode two, but I don't think that's going to immediately bring us the answers we crave.

I suspect it will only bring more questions.

And I'm okay with that, as this clearly isn't a show that has been rushed out, rather it has been as well workshopped as a full Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

Is this some alternate reality that Wanda has created to cope with her grief over the loss of Vision? Has she been captured by some powerful antagonist who is subjecting her to all this? Or is it the "good guys" trying to pacify her before her mutant/supernatural powers run amok?

Who knows? 

The brilliance of what we have seen already guarantees that I'm along for the ride, enjoying the detective work and unravelling of reality, as well as the simple humour of a vintage sitcom featuring recognisable contemporary characters.

The performances in these first two episodes have been pitch-perfect, balancing the stylised world of a period TV show with the sci-fi reality of the modern MCU.

I cannot wait for next Friday and my next dose of the mind-bending, surreal adventures of Wanda and Vision.

On the strength of just two half-hour episodes (out of nine), I suspect, come year's end, WandaVision is going to be in a lot of people's lists of the their top shows of 2021.

The Mandalorian may have made last year a "Star Wars Year" for many of us, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's Marvel, once again, that dominates the online 'watercooler' conversation in coming months.

The Batman (2022) + Justice League (2021)