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Home Of Superheroes, Spectres, Spooks, Supernatural, and Star Stuff

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season One episodes...

The series follows on from HeroPress Film Of 2008 - Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

(1) Ambush: Yoda and a trio of clone trooper are on Toydaria to sign a deal with the rulers so they will side with the Republic in the war. However, first they have to run the gauntlet of the Separatists' droid army and its leader, the dark side jedi Asajj Ventress.

Possibly not the most engaging story to launch a new series on the back of, but it still gives Yoda a chance to kick some major ass as he takes out most of an armoured column single-handed. The story also begins to show the different personalities of the clones. The characters, aliens and the scenery all look fantastic, but I could live without the comedy stylings of the droid army. (3/5)

(2) Rising Malevolence: Jedi Master Plo Koon and his troops are left stranded in an escape pod after being struck by the Separatists' new secret weapon. Anakin, and his padawan Ahsoka, go to their rescue - against the orders of the Jedi Council.

I might be in a minority but I have no problem's with Ahsoka, Anakin's youthful sidekick, and let's be honest this animated Anakin has far more charisma than poor Hayden Christensen. A slight story, but the lack of indepth plotting is made up for in the interesting character interaction - and the wild and wonderful jedi powers that the good and bad guys get to wield. It was also interesting that technology that is suggested as being common place in the Original Trilogy - an ion cannon - is shown here as being new and cutting edge (3.5/5)

(3) Shadow of Malevolence: Anakin leads his Shadow Squadron in an attempt to intercept the Separatists' new destroyer, The Malevolence, before it can turn its ion cannon on its next target - a Republic medical station near the planet of Naboo.

Although the voice-over introductions to the episodes are more Starship Troopers than Star Wars, I really felt all the ingredients were falling into place with this story. The forced comedy was kept to a minimum while the space battles took centre stage. There was a genuine sense of excitement in this tale as the importance of the clones to the jedi is brought home time and again. And those stunning, manta-winged space whales that Shadow Squardon encountered during its short cut through the nebula were pure Golden Age sci-fi - remember: Flash Gordon was George Lucas' original inspiration for the whole Saga. (4/5)

(4) Destroy Malevolence: As the Republic pursue The Malevolence away from Naboo, General Grievous manages to capture Amidala and C3PO, meaning Anakin and Obi-Wan have to get on the enemy supership, rescue their friends and escape before The Malevolence jumps into hyperspace.

This series just gets stronger and stronger by the episode. While a lengthy sequence at the heart of this story was rather reminiscent of the dire robot factory sequence from Attack Of The Clones, this story offered a great balance of space battles and ground combat (as Anakin and Obi-Wan fought their way through the ship's corridors) that just said "Star Wars" to me. I couldn't have been happier! Another thing which struck me about this series, with this episode, is the awesome quality of the sound effects, always a strong point in the Star Wars Saga. (4.5/5)

(5) Rookies: The Separatists launch a stealth attack on an isolated Republic listening post as the first step towards an all-out invasion of Kamino, where the Republic's clones are grown. It is up to the surviving clones at the outpost, and two visiting officers, to fend off the Separatist's commando droids and battle droids and somehow alert the Republic to the impending invasion.

This was a magnificent episode, that really put the "war" into Star Wars. It was a down'n'dirty, "in the trenches" war story focusing on the front line grunts, their loyalty to the team mates and their resilience. It helped that the commando droids were really cool as well! (4.5/5)

To be continued...

Friday, 27 February 2009

Top Of The Pile: Ultimate Spider-Man #131

When Marvel began its Ultimatum cross-over across its Ultimate line of superhero titles I was impressed, even though my unquestioning loyalty to the brand was starting to waver (thanks to a pretty poor run on its tentpole title The Ultimates).

However, Ultimate Spider-Man issue 131 has managed to rekindle my faith in this tiny corner of the Marvel Universe.

This issue isn't your typical superhero fare - it's not a slugfest between two god-like beings or a superscientist thinking his way out of a sticky situation.

This is a disaster movie in comic book form, with the true extent of the devastation wrought by Magneto's Ultimatum wave on New York perfectly illustrated by the scene of Peter Parker's Aunt May looking out from her rooftop vantage point across the flooded city.

Peter's selfless efforts to do what he can against this overwhelming force of nature even wins round his staunchest opponent, J Jonah Jameson of The Daily Bugle, who is reduced to tears at his keyboard as he tries to sum up his feelings about what has happened and Spider-Man's heroic efforts to "save anyone he could".

Later Parker encounters The Hulk and manages to talk him into assisting him (I wish there was some consistent characterisation of The Hulk in these titles; here he is a monosyllabic brute with a child's mind).

They discover the dead body of Daredevil (although he appears on the cover of Ultimatum #4 according to the adverts!) in a brief, but powerful scene that really emphasises the arbitrary brutality of the tidal wave that swept through the city.

The emotional impact of this issue is a total contrast to Ultimate Fantastic Four #60, the last issue of this title.

I had been expecting a big send-off, but instead, Sue and Ben's hunt for their missing team-mates leads them to a stereotypical underwater punch-up in Atlantis and a rather "blah" and undramatic end to a run that has featured some pretty wild and way-out adventures.

The story continues in Ultimatum, as well as Ultimatum: Fantastic Four Requiem, which I hope will give some closure for the FF.

With Ultimatum also serving as a tool for Marvel to shut-down some of its Ultimate titles they are making it so much easier for me to trim back the Marvel portion of my monthly pull-list.

I thought I might have some regrets about seeing this particular title go, as the mainstream Fantastic Four has been a stalwart of my pull-list for decades (despite Mark Millar's current efforts to drive me off the title), but this "final issue" was so underwhelming that, at the moment, I don't think I'll miss it at all.

It may also make it easier, after the cross-over has wrapped, to drop some of the other remaining Ultimate titles... although I shall hang on to Ultimate Spider-Man.

Book Of The Month: Watchmen

It would be fair to say that without Watchmen, there would be no HeroPress. The unique vision of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was a key inspiration for me in shaping the original HeroPress play-by-post superhero game all those years ago.

The fact that this desire for a "realistic" take on costumed vigilantes went over the heads of most of the players ultimately didn't matter because they were creating their own, unique multiverse around their own visions of what being a superhero was all about.

That, of course, led through a trail of events, false starts and dead-ends to HeroPress as it exists today (this blog).

Now, with Zack Snyder's hungrily-awaited big screen adaptation of Watchmen only a week away, I felt it was time to revisit the source material that had had such a big impact on me when I first read it in 1986.

With a more mature head on my shoulders I can see past the moments of crowd-pleasing violence (there are fewer of these than you might expect from a superhero tale), savour Dave Gibbons almost cinematic transitions between scenes, appreciate the metaphorical allegory of The Black Freighter (a pirate comic being read by a minor character in the story that becomes a "tale-within-a-tale"), be more aware of the shifting time frame of the narrative and pick up on subtleties that may have passed me by before.

Watchmen begins as a murder mystery, with the death of a former-costumed hero-turned-government-enforcer called The Comedian, but quickly glides into a political thriller and ultimately a conspiracy theory investigation.

Set on an Earth where Nixon is still President in 1985 and the one true superpowered individual, Doctor Manhattan, has stimulated major leaps forward in technology e.g. electric cars, genetically engineered animals etc, the story posits a world teetering on the brink of a nuclear war, with Russia's ambitions to invade Afghanistan only held in check by the presence of the near-omnipotent Dr Manhattan.

With all the preview clips and trailers for the film that have come out on the web in the past month, I was one of the people who joked that most of the movie was already available to see online (before it opens on March 6). However, having reread the book I realise how little has actually been shown and was reminded how layered and complex the story actually is.

Throughout the 12 chapters of the collected trade paperback (the 12 original issues of the comic), the main characters - Nite Owl, Dr Manhattan, Rorschach, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias - each have their back story explained as their role in the unfolding events comes into focus and the pieces of the giant puzzle fall into place.

Watchmen takes a serious, adult approach to comics and superheroes - without "adult" equating to graphic sex, ultraviolence and f-bombs every other panel - that has rarely been equalled in the mainstream comic industry. What it does equate to though is an interweaving story with multiple characters, both major and minor, all being gradually manoeuvred into the wrong place at the wrong time for the jaw-dropping climax, which takes place simultaneously on two continents.

How this plays out in the film, we will have to wait and see.

If, for some reason, you have yet to read this book, but are thinking about going to see the film, I'd recommend probably seeing the film first because no cinematic adaptation of great literature can ever remain 100 per cent faithful to the source material and this way there will still be some nice Easter Eggs for you to enjoy when you finally come to read the book.

For those who don't mind spoilers I'll direct you to the following trio of interesting articles. However, if you want to remain as spoiler free as possible bookmark this page and come back to it after you've seen the film and read the book!

The Ten Most Memorable Moments of Watchmen from IGN.

'Watchmen' Director Reveals Key Differences Between Graphic Novel And Film from MTV.

How 9/11 Changed Watchmen from io9

And if you still can't wait to see the movie, here's yet more clips...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

A Timely Reminder...

...to put things in perspective.

Thanks to Dylan Horrocks, a cartoonist from New Zealand (where copyright laws were on the verge of getting out of control) for putting this strip in the public domain.

Clear Your Diary...

Could we really be heading into a Golden Age of superhero cinema? Just look at the Marvel and DC comic book adaptations already slated for 2010 and 2011 -

Iron Man 2: May 7, 2010

Thor: July 16, 2010

Jonah Hex: August 6, 2010

Green Lantern: December 17, 2010

The First Avenger: Captain America: May 6, 2011

The Avengers: July 15, 2011

And the latest news is that DC's excellent Suicide Squad, the superheroic answer to the Dirty Dozen, is being is prepared as another possible franchise and - possibly best news of all - Samuel L Jackson has signed a nine-picture deal with Marvel to appear as Nick Fury, including a possible of S.H.I.E.L.D. movie.

PRESS RELEASE: Heist, A New Webcomic...

Some villains are so good the heroes have no idea they exist.

Heist: An unrepentant comic about the bad guy free every week from the writers of Hannibal Goes to Rome, Invisible Inc. and Mail-Order Ninja.

Visit www.indeliblecomics.com/heist/

Heist is the collaborative product of writer Brendan McGinley (Hannibal Goes to Rome, Dose and Invisible, Inc.) with Joshua Elder (Mail-Order Ninja, The Batman Strikes), artist Andres Ponce (Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles, Firebirds) and omni-talented colorist Rocio Zucchi (World of Warcraft).

Bankshot Comics’ relentlessly amoral web series follows a super-powered thief known only as Geist to the few who know him at all. His only confidant is Jin, a magic ring with the power to make him a living ghost: invisible. Intangible. Unstoppable.

And bored out of his mind.

Fortunately, he’s hired for the most challenging crime ever: steal an artifact known as The Halo from the headquarters of Pax Americana, the world’s premiere team of superheroes. What follows is a caper gone wrong that becomes an epic, riches-to-rags story of a horrible person’s rise to power and fall to grace.

Crime pays, but there is more beyond.

DVD Of The Week: Perfect Creature (2006)

Picture an alternate reality where, as a by-product of genetic research hundreds of years earlier, a new race has arisen to watch over mankind.

This new race is called The Brotherhood. They are peaceful vampires who ask only that humans donate blood during "church services", so they can continue their role as guardians.

For several centuries this symbiotic relationship continues, without a single human being injured, until one of the immortal vampires, Brother Edgar (Leo Gregory), goes rogue and starts murdering people.

His brother, Silus (Dougray Scott) is assigned to assist police captain Lilly (Saffron Burrows) in tracking him down.

They succeed and soon Edgar is back in the custody of The Brotherhood, swearing revenge on Lilly and The Brotherhood. It turns out that he had become infected by an experiment designed to create new vampires and when he eventually breaks out of his prison Edgar starts spreading his tainted blood around.

Perfect Creature is a little-known New Zealand film that not only puts an interesting spin on the tired vampire genre, but dresses it up in a beautiful steampunk setting that is a mesh of Victorian London and 1930s pulp-era America, complete with steam driven cars and airships.

Dougray Scott, in particular, is superb as the near-expressionless Silus, while Saffron Burrows provides decent support in the lesser role of Lilly - although she is slightly upstaged by Scott Wills as her partner, Detective Jones, who has the shabby, down-at-heel noir detective role down pat.

Although understandably bloodthirsty in places, Perfect Creature is by no means gruesome or unnecessarily horrific.

There are so many good ideas in this movie that the fact that it tells a compelling story in just 84 minutes is a credit to writer/director Glenn Standring.

From the vampires-as-priests angle to the incredibly developed world as a whole, Perfect Creature is an amazing piece of film making and a unique exploration of a well-trodden path that deserves greater recognition than it seemingly has.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A Missed Opportunity...

Inspired by The Evil DM's fine haul of gaming delights from his local charity shop, I decided to check out the shops in Tonbridge this week.

Sadly, as I feared, geek-themed finds in our town's charity shops are mostly limited to donations I have previously made and the only vaguely role-playing related treasures I could unearth were a pair of Fighting Fantasy books - Deathtrap Dungeon (number six) and Phantoms of Fear (number 28) - for a mere 50p each.

However what made this meagre haul so special for me was that the previous owner of Deathtrap Dungeon had left sheets of paper inside the book with his maps of the dungeons sketched on.

I like to think that this was the early work of a future prolific gamer. If nothing else it stirred up fond memories of my own dabbling in the Fighting Fantasy series back in the early '80s when they served as a fix between my regular role-playing adventures.

As a "gateway drug" into the wonderful world of role-playing games, the Fighting Fantasy series of "choose your own adventure" books were a great missed opportunity, in my opinion. Over the years I've encountered many people, both male and female, you read/played the Fighting Fantasy series in their youth but have never touched, or even considered, a "real" roleplaying game.

With the inclusion of a "random number" element (e.g. dice), these books were only a Gamesmaster short of being a full role-playing game and its a shame a more proactive approach wasn't taken to steer Fighting Fantasy fans into the world of RPGs.

I realise these books are still around, but I think that particular door has probably closed now. Fighting Fantasy, when it was new, was the closest role-playing games have ever come to being acceptable in the mainstream -particularly in the UK.

A bit more effort, and cross-promotion, by the games designers of the day might have led to a more thriving hobby today, at least over here, with more seasoned players, more friendly local games stores etc.

Doctor Who: The Romans (1965)

Picking up from the end of The Rescue, with the TARDIS toppling over the edge of a cliff, the action of The Romans suddenly jumps forward rather oddly and The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki have been enjoying a relaxing holiday in a villa in a month.

They are in Italy, 64AD, and Vicki wants to see Rome, so The Doctor offers to take her, while Ian and Babara continue to rest in their new home.

On the road to Rome, The Doctor is mistaken for murdered lyre-player Maximus Pettulian and escorted to Emperor Nero's palace.
Back the villa, Ian and Barbara are ambushed by slave-hunting thugs - Ian is sold off to be a galley slave while Barbara is taken to Rome to be sold at auction.

She becomes a handmaiden to Empress Poppea (Kay Patrick), but catches the eye of lecherous Emporer Nero (Derek Francis).

Meanwhile Ian's galley runs aground and he heads off to Rome to try and find Barbara, but is recaptured and sent to the arena as a gladiator.

The Doctor is supposed to entertain Nero's court with his lyre-playing, but instead manages to bluff everyone with a variation of the "Emporer's New Clothes". This, however, backfires as Nero believes the court prefers The Doctor's playing to his own and wants to have him consigned to the arena as well - as lion bait.

Inspired by Carry On Cleo (the finest of the Carry On films), Dennis Spooner's script for The Romans was the BBC's first attempt at playing a Doctor Who historical story for laughs.

Sadly verbal wit soon gives way to annoying farce as Nero chases Barbara around the palace halls (you can almost hear the Benny Hill theme in your head).

While it is quite inspired that throughout the whole story The Doctor and Vicki never find out what is going on with Barbara and Ian (and actually believe them to have spent the entire time relaxing back the villa), much of the humour is pretty weak and rather silly.

This story must also hold the record for the amount of fluffed lines and missed cues by William Hartnell.

Although this story's light-hearted style laid the groundwork for future historical stories to take more liberties with the recognised facts for the sake of a good story, The Romans was ultimately a slight misfire and meant that the next few historical tales, such as The Crusade and The Massacre, reverted to a more straight-forward approach.

Both this story and The Rescue also showed William Hartnell's Doctor being more action-orientated than we generally consider him, with The Romans seeing him boasting to Vicki of his martial prowess and claiming to have trained the the Mountain Mauler of Montana (presumably a wrestler or a boxer with a nom-de-guerre like that).

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Week In Geek...

A round-up of geeky news you might have missed...

(1) No More TV For Joss: Buffy creator Joss Whedon is turning his back on TV work and concentrating on the Internet. He has also put the kibosh on the idea of a Buffy movie.

(2) Awards Season: Nominees have been announced for the fourth annual Glyph Comics Awards, while nominations have also opened for the Harvey Awards.

(3) Sarah Jane Gets Red Nose Treatment: A Sarah Jane Adventures sketch, with the show's stars, will feature in Comic Relief, the Red Nose Day telethon on March 13.

(4) Evil DM Production's New Site: My good friend Jeff, of Evil DM Productions, has launched a new website to promote his products, including the Savage Worlds remix of his Legends of Steel swords and sorcery setting. Evil DM Productions also has an associated forum for discussion of its products and heroic adventure action in all media.

(5) Level Up: Goodman Games announces its new Dungeons & Dragons 4e magazine, Level Up.

(6) Brolin and Malvovich Have Hex Appeal: Josh Brolin will play DC Comic's scarred, Western bounty hunter Jonah Hex in the forthcoming movie adaptation - up against John Malkovich as a villainour plantation owner.

(7) Shhhh! It's The Doctor: IDW's latest Doctor Who outing is a one-shot called The Whispering Gallery with art by Ben Templesmith. It is written by husband and wife team Leah Moore and John Reppion.

(8) Hydra Unleashes New Aliens: A selection of wonderful new alien figures are available for pre-order from Hydra Miniatures. They are perfectly compatible with both the Dick Garrison and G.A.F.D.O.Z. lines of retro/Golden Age sci-fi miniatures.

(9) Planning Ahead: Hoping to cash in on new comic book fans drawn to the medium after seeing Watchmen, DC Comics is launching its After Watchmen campaign. And although the film is still several weeks away from its big screen debut, details are already emerging about features of its DVD release.

(10) Duncan Dares The Doctor: Rome-star Lindsay Duncan will appear in this year's second Doctor Who special as The 10th Doctor's latest assistant, Adelaide.

(11) More Watchmen For Your Buck: A three hour and ten minute Director's Cut of Watchmen is due to hit screens in July.

Monday, 23 February 2009

March 6 Can't Come Soon Enough...




Two more glorious Watchmen TV spots for your viewing pleasure.

Doctor Who: The Rescue (1965)

The TARDIS, carrying The Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), materialises in a cave on the planet Dido.

A spacecraft has previously crashed on Dido and the two surviving passengers, young Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and
bed-ridden Bennett (Ray Barrett), are being held prisoner by a mysterious, masked alien called Koquillion.

The Rescue is a fast-paced two-parter, clocking in at 49 minutes, with some decent character work, that serves primarily as an interesting introduction of a new TARDIS crew member (Vicki).

The previous story, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, had seen the first departure of a TARDIS crew member, The Doctor's granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford), and thus the plucky Vicki is a perfect substitute.

This isn't a story that has aged particularly well, as the model shots of Vicki's crashed spacecraft look like they were built by Blue Peter presenters using the middles of toilet rolls, sticky-back plastic and masking tape and the creature costumes are pretty unconvincing, even with a large dose of suspended disbelief.

A lot also goes unexplained in the story. The Doctor has been to Dido before and is adamant that the natives are very friendly and peace-loving, which rather runs contrary to the elaborate Indiana Jones-style booby traps he and Ian later encounter while travelling through the cave systems.

David Whitaker has some clever ideas in his script (such as Koquillion's motivation and Barbara's accidental killing of Vicki's pet), but there's not much else going on.

This makes The Rescue seem quite light-weight when it could have had more emotional impact: for instance, little is made of the impact of Susan's departure from the group dynamic or Vicki's trauma at the loss of her father.

GAFDOZ Glamour: Hap Hazzard And The Hot Dog...

Some eye-candy: Galactic rogue Happy 'Hap' Hazzard And The Hot Dog (his one-man snub fighter).

Hap is GAFDOZ2 (Jek Starkiller: Galactic Gunfighter) from Killer B Games, while The Hot Dog is the Sci-fi Fighter Multi Part Resin Kit from Recreational Combat's Lead Bones line.

Both were painted by Neil Wilson of Wilson's Miniatures Wargames Figure Painting and Scenery Service.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Credit Crunch Cavalier...

Today was Cavalier, the annual Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society show at The Angel Centre in Tonbridge (i.e. about a ten minute walk from my front door).

As usual I met Nick there, handed over a selection of retro sci-fi figures to Neil for painting, picked up the spaceship he had painted for me and proceeded to shop like there was no tomorrow.

The impact of the current economic climate was immediately clear. It was a very quiet show this year, which must have been bad news for the traders, although - ironically - it meant I ended up spending more than I had bargained on, because the lack of other punters made it far easier for me to browse and spend time at the various stalls.

Of the display games, there was one lovely "alternate World War II", using West Wind's rules and figures, with giant mechs, zombies and vampires. The scenario was an assault on the Tower Of London and Nick and I were impressed by the vignette of Beefeaters fending off flesh-eating zombies. This ruleset is now on Nick's "maybe" shopping list for future purchases (although his wargame spending has been severely curtailed by his impending wedding).

Otherwise the main themes of the display games seemed to be air and sea warfare, in a variety of scales, the usual smattering of historic games, a couple of participation games (including the obligatory Western shoot-out) and a single fantasy scenario (a large assault on a walled city).

On the GAFDOZ front, I picked up some nice pieces of terrain - including a ready made and painted Wizard's Tower (made by Pegasus Hobbies). The thinking behind this is, having watched a lot of Flash Gordon recently, I realised the architecture of Mongo was quite medieval - just with mad science laboratories etc inside.

I was also rather taken with some steam tanks (as seen recently in Mutant Chronicles) from Ironclad Miniatures, but resisted the urge to make a purchase as I felt I'd probably spent enough by that stage! Again, I reasoned with Nick, they were suitably "unhistoric" enough to be viewed as Golden Age sci-fi tanks (that is what people in the between wars, 1930s might have thought tanks could evolve into in a futuristic setting).

Sadly for my limited budget, it's now only just over a month until Salute, at ExCel in London, which is, of course, the BIG show of the year.

More Lesbian Vampire Killers...



Enjoy this totally NOT safe for work (or within earshot of small children) new trailer for Lesbian Vampire Killers from dreadcentral.

If the film is half as funny as these clips then any slight, nagging doubts I had about the film will be blown totally out the window.

Both lead actors are established comedy performers (TV's Gavin And Stacey): James Cordon is a funny, funny man and has one of those great infectious laughs, while Mathew Home plays the straight man perfectly to Cordon's OTT stylings.

Lesbian Vampire Killers opens here in the UK on March 20.

Cordon and Horne are also soon to be seen in their own sketch show on BBC3 called, surprisingly, Horne and Cordon.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Am I A Twit?

The latest Internet fad that I jumped on the bandwagon of is Twitter.

But I have to be honest and admit I don't know why.

Several people have told me it's "very good" and "it's the future of communication", but no one has yet been able to tell me exactly why it is.

Twitter allows you to post short, 140 character messages which can be read by anyone who is "following" you.

But if I want to chat with people I know, at a distance, I already have Facebook, e-mail, text and, heaven forbid, the telephone - and these conversations aren't conducted in front of a host of strangers.

Both Rachel and I have found having a Twitter account also opens you up to being followed by total strangers. If this was the real world it would be called stalking. It's not as if we are anyone. If they're fans of my blog that's fine by me, but I suspect 99.9% of the people following me (who don't already know me from elsewhere) are unaware I even have a geeky blog.

Twitter seems almost MySpace-like its ability to allow you to "follow" celebrities, which I guess is okay for getting the latest news on what they are doing, but do I really need to know what they are having for lunch?

And it still doesn't explain why I should Twitter? Besides being another avenue to use to promote HeroPress, I just don't see yet what the use is for me? What am I missing?

As far as I can tell, Twitter is totally devoid of all the whistles and bells that make Facebook so useful (e.g. photo storage, discussion groups, fansites that send out updates etc) that it makes me think I must be missing something.

When people I really respect, like Stephen Fry, Neil Gaiman and Wil Wheaton, are such strong advocates and regular contributors, there must be more to Twitter than I can see.

I don't want anyone to think I am knocking Twitter, I just don't fully understand it and that's slightly frustrating. All I want is for someone to explain it to me...

And if everyone eventually spends all their time updating their Facebook account, Twittering and blogging when is anyone going to have time to actually do anything worth Twittering/Facebooking/blogging about?

Doctor Who: The Mark Of The Rani (1985)

Heading towards Kew Gardens, the TARDIS is pulled off course and lands in the 19th Century mining town of Killingworth where renegade Time Lord chemist The Rani (Kate O'Mara) has set up shop under the cover of a bath house.

She is extracting chemicals from human brains and turning hard-working miners into rampaging Luddites. The Rani wants to use the neuro-chemical extracts to control the inhabitants of Miasimia Goria, a world she rules but which has fallen into chaos because of earlier experiments that went wrong.

The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) find their efforts to thwart her complicated by the arrival of The Doctor's nemesis, The Master (Anthony Ainley).

The Master is there because of a meeting of great minds being organised by pit owner Lord Ravensworth (Terence Alexander) and George Stephenson (Gawn Grainger). He wants to pervert the combined genius to his own ends, but sadly this motivation - and The Rani's - is soon forgotten as the story slips into a three-way battle of wits between the various Time Lords.

While The Rani's snearing attitude to The Master's obsessive feud with The Doctor is both interesting and entertaining, and her supposed superior (if single-minded) intellect is worth noting, the abandonment of any focus to their schemes except for destroying The Doctor runs counter to the intelligence of all the characters involved.

The Mark Of The Rani was the Sixth Doctor's only historical outing, but luckily he has been well served since by Big Finish.

Being a BBC costume production, the mining town and its residents all look fantastically Victorian, and the story features a lot of wonderful location work to capture the atmosphere, but to a geek like me it's the stylish interior of The Rani's TARDIS that is the most memorable image.

The finest scene of the story, which elevates it from mediocrity, comes towards the end when The Master and The Rani are trying to flee in her TARDIS - which The Doctor has sabotaged - and they become trapped with a baby T-Rex, one of The Rani's experiments, which is rapidly growing!

Contrast this with The Rani's landmines which turn people into trees - animated trees, mind you - and The Mark Of The Rani is a true parson's egg; but it errs on the side of excellence thanks to Kate O'Mara's stirling showing as the wicked Gallifreyan chemist and the terrifying situation she and The Master end up in.

The Rani clearly could have been as fine a nemesis for The Doctor as The Master, but only ever appeared once more (two years later in Time And The Rani), although fans still hold out hope that she will pop up in the new Doctor Who.

The plot of The Mark Of The Rani is simple, but never realy goes anywhere, so it was left to the characters to hold everything together... and they just about manage.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Pulp Packing Postie...

Pulp-flavoured delights that have shown up on the doorstep of HeroPress Towers this week:

The Summer, 1942, edition of Captain Future (which includes The Comet Kings, a complete novel by Edmond Hamilton).

From Adventure House, this is one of those beautiful reproductions of an old pulp magazine - complete with period adverts, similar to Nostalgia Venture's Doc Savage line.

Almuric by Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan, if you didn't know), from 1939. An Earthman armed with a sword on a brutal alien planet...


City of The Beast, by Micheal Moorcock (creator of Elric, if you didn't know). The first of Moorcock's Edgar Rice Burroughs' pastiches, from 1965. An Earthman is transported to Mars' distant past and must fight for survival and the hand of a beautiful Martian princess.

Both of these novels come from Paizo's popular Planet Stories imprint.

Flash Gordon: Massacre In The 22nd Century by David Hagberg. The first in a series of six novels that Hagberg wrote in the early '80s (written under the pseudonym of 'Flash Gordon'!). A 99 pence investment on eBay; don't know anything else about the book yet.

High Adventures Cliffhangers: Buck Rogers Adventure Game, and its only supplement Buck Rogers: War Against The Han. A little known TSR roleplaying game from 1993 (not to be confused with their Buck Rogers In The 25th Century RPG).

This is a very simple game based on the original 1929 newspaper strip and, being entirely set on a pulp view of a post-apocalyptic Earth, bears very little resemblance to the space-faring incarnations which it inspired. No disco dancing and biddi-biddi robots here!

Two more great finds on eBay: the boxed rules set cost me the grand total of 99 pence, plus about £3.30 postage and packing, while War Against The Han, another beautiful (but slimmer) boxed set, cost all of £4.99, with £3 postage and packing on top.

Look out for a review in the near future.

All these are, of course, great research material for my planned Galactic Adventures in the Fourth Dimension of the Forbidden Zone Golden Age sci-fi wargame/role-playing game.

"Who Watches the Watchmen? - A Veidt Music Network (VMN) Special - 1983"

And now for a totally different kind of Watchmen commercial...



It has to be said this film's viral marketing has really taken off... and it's now less than two weeks until we can get to see the film of which ubergeek Wil Wheaton (who managed to wangle a preview) says: "PAY ATTENTION, MY FELLOW GEEKS: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT." (his caps)

There are plenty of official clips from the film around on the Web at the moment - even my brother-in-blogging over at Geek Orthodox has some - but I'm more fascinated by the outpouring of faux documentaries, setting the scene and helping us geeks get in the right frame of mind for embracing the full glory of Watchmen on the big screen.

There's A Chill In The Air...

Halloween comes early to HeroPress with these four trailers for The HP Lovecraft Historical Society's excellent Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series of audio plays.






See here for my review of The Shadow Out Of Time; here for The Dunwich Horror; and here for At The Mountains Of Madness, my personal favourite of Lovecraft's tales of cosmic horror and "things man was not supposed to know".

In true "DVD extras" style, here follows a short "behind-the-scenes" featurette on the making of the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre episodes.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Not Over, But Under The White Cliffs Of Dover...

The Nemonite Invasion is the third of BBC Audio's exclusive dramatic readings of original (written for audio) Doctor Who adventures.

Penned by David Roden and read by Catherine Tate (Donna Noble to David Tennant's 10th Doctor), this is a historic tale, focusing on the planning of the Dunkirk Evacuation from the Royal Navy's secret base under Dover Castle, in contrast to the heavy sci-fi of The Forever Trap and Pest Control.

With a sprinkle of the nautical themes from The Feast Of The Drowned and the wartime stylings of The Curse Of Fenric, The Nemonite Invasion has a pure Doctor Who pedigree which Catherine Tate's reading can only strengthen.

Chasing an alien craft through the Vortex, The TARDIS crashes into the sea off Dover in 1940. The Doctor and Donna meet Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay (responsible for Operation Dynamo - the world famous Dunkirk evacuation), get accused of being spies (at one point The Doctor faces an impromptu firing squad) and help fend off an attack by blood-sucking slug creatures (Nemonites) from the alien ship they were pursuing.

Unfortunately, the war-time setting is almost incidental to the story, and while it makes for an interesting, historical backdrop (and The Doctor does talk Ramsay into going ahead with Operation Dynamo), the alien invasion really could have happened in almost any setting or era.

The battle against the parasitic Nemonites and their human hosts quickly devolves into a typical zombie-fighting/spam in a cabin scenario with the "good guys" making their heroic last stand against overwhelming numbers.

It also doesn't help that the Nemonites motivation is the biggest cliche of the new Who: "last survivors of a dead world" , although Catherine Tate - assisted by some good sound effects - does get to show off her mastery of voices as she puts words in the aliens' hosts' mouths.

However, whenever the paranoid and slightly insane Commodore Jarman, who tries to undermine The Doctor at every turn, is involved in the plot it is impossible not to picture Commander Millington from The Curse of Fenric.

That is until Jarman transforms into a cackling pantomime villain, at around the same time that 57-year-old Ramsay becomes a wise-cracking action hero.

Roden tries to make up for these shortcomings in the story with lashings of atmosphere, some intriguing sub-plots (particularly Donna's friendship with two young sailors - one romantic, the other quite maternal) and a powerful portrayal of the complexities of The Doctor's character.

Sadly though, despite Roden's best efforts, this is the weakest of BBC Audio's small range of original Doctor Who fiction and highlights the difficulties of doing good historical adventures against the infinite possibilities for stories dealing with alien worlds and far-flung futures.

DVD Of The Week: Mutant Chronicles (2008)

How could I not rave about a film based on a role-playing game from the early 1990s, itself a spin-off of Warzone - a very Warhammer 40,000-style wargame?

The Mutant Chronicles revolves around a futuristic, war-ravaged Earth, now controlled by four feuding corporations.

During one of these wars, a great stone seal is broken, which has been holding back an "ancient enemy" for an unspecified number of centuries.

Breaking the seal releases hordes of zombie, killing machines (which the DVD case calls "necromutants", although this is never actually stated in the film).

Within six weeks, the necromutants have pretty much overrun the Earth, the corporations have bandied together and those who can afford it are leaving the planet.

A religious brotherhood knows of a prophecy in its holy book - The Chronicles - to defeat the "ancient enemy".

It requires a small band of warriors to embark on a suicide mission through underground caverns to deliver what they believe is a bomb into the heart of the "ancient enemy" (which is really a big zombie-making machine).

The film looks really stylish, with a superb techno-Gothic/steampunk vibe, so it's a shame that just a bit more money couldn't have been thrown at the CGI special effects to help them blend a bit better with the live action. As it is, much the film has a disconnecting, unreality about it.

That said, a massive amount of thought and effort has clearly gone into the production design of the Mutant Chronicles; I was particularly fond of the clunky, coal-powered spaceships and the massive (but sadly underused) armoured tanks.

Vast tracts of the dialogue in Philip Eisner and Stuart Hazeldine's script are really poor, but it doesn't matter because of the bulk of the acting (despite the presence of such B-movie regulars as Sean Pertwee, Ron Perlman, John Malkovich, Devon Aoki and Thomas Jane) is just as bad.

However, it helps suspend your disbelief if you approach it as though you are viewing a live-action roleplaying game - the stilted conversations, the mismatched multi-racial/multi-cultural adventuring party, the tattered old maps, the journey through a ruined city (a wonderful homage to Games Workshop design) and finally the underground quest to defeat a Big Bad.

Once the adventuring party (all name characters from The Mutant Chronicles game, I believe, and armed with swords and guns) get into the "Lost City", the final act of the film is superb; basically a non-stop fight through hordes of claw-armed zombies, with the inevitable role-playing spectre of a potential Total Party Kill always hanging over them.

I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories which send adventurers underground to explore ruins which turn out to be 20th Century cities (usually London or New York), since first saw Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, and I would have welcomed more glimpses of Mutant Chroncles' take on this trope.

Rather naively, the movie ends with an obvious opening for a sequel (set on Mars, where the escaping population of Earth were relocating) and I, for one, would pay to see this. Can't see that happening any time soon, though!

Nevertheless, for gamers and those who love trashy, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, Mutant Chronicles is a great way to while away an hour and 40 minutes and bathe in a bizarre mash-up of styles, soaked through with old school role-playing game sensibilities.

For some reason, although this film was in cinemas here in the UK last year and is now out on DVD, it has yet to be released in the States; it debuts there in late April.

As a final note, the film is clearly set in the year 2707, so why does the front cover of the DVD say: "Welcome to the 23rd Century"?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Ooo, Shiny!



The third, and final, of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine TV spots, shedding a bit of light on the backstory of Marvel Comic's favourite mutant (for those new to the character).

Look out for Deadpool and Gambit as well, other popular super-characters from the Marvel Universe, making their big screen debut.

50,000!

HeroPress passed the 50,000 hits mark around lunchtime today!

Not too shabby for "just another blog", hidden away in its own dark corner of the ever-expanding Interweb.

This week has seen a nice run of hits (especially in the last few days when the site has seen over 200 visitors a day).

We're up to 29 "Followers" here on Blogger, 30 "Readers" on Facebook and, I discovered recently, 42 "Google Subscribers" (apparently).

All I can say, as ever, is a big thank you to everyone who Follows, Reads, Subscribes or just drops in on an occasional basis. HeroPress is here to stay and I hope you'll all come along for the ride.

The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Dick Garrison...

Wessex Games, one of the stalwarts of Britain's quality wargames rules-producing cottage industry, is currently in the process of developing a set of rules for Golden Age science-fiction inspired by Wargames Supply Dump's fine Dick Garrison - Galactic Hero range of miniatures.

The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Dick Garrison, being written by Mike Baumann, will almost certainly be suitable for use with Killer B's G.A.F.D.O.Z. range of miniatures as well as any other retro sci-fi figures you can lay your hands on.

From the teasing preview Mike has posted on the Wessex Games Pulp Mailing List, it would appear that the game will have a degree of role-playing and skirmish-level crossover - making it ideal fodder for Savage Worlds fans looking for easily adaptable material and Flash Gordonesque ideas to Savage.

Mike wrote: "In homage to the old serials I plan on 15 scenarios, or episodes, that form a campaign or serial. I have the first six in nearly final format. The next six are in draft and the last three are just notes.

"Here they are with thumbnail sketches:

"The Mechanical Menance - Dick, Felicity and space troopers land on Khanopia. They are attacked by robotmen!

"Perfidity in the Palace - Dick and Felicity are invited to Khang's palace. Once inside, their escort turns on them intending capture!

"Arena of Doom - Dick must face the terrible Gatrons in the arena for the amusement of Khang's court.

"Dungeons of Despair - Trapped in the dungeons beneath Khang's palace, Dick must make his way to freedom.

"A Fate Worse than Death - Felicity is held in Khang's seraglio pending her marriage to the tyrant. Can Dick rescue her, or will he succumb to the charms of the Princess Khassiopia?

"Escape from Khanopia - Dick and Felicity flee the palace. Can they make it to their rocketship or will the robotmen capture them?

"Space Hawk Down - Dick and Felicity crash land on the forest world of Silvelia. While they lie stunned in their rocketship, Prince Borain and his foresters battle with Khang's minions.

"Assassins! A furious Khang sends fanatics to kill Prince Borain! Can Dick foil the assassination attempt or will his only ally on Khanopia be murdered?

"Battle in the Forest - Dick departs for Aurelia - world of the Falconmen - in order to forge an alliance. In the mean time, Khang sends his army to attack the Silvelians.

"In the Claws of the Falconmen - Landing in the cloud city of the Falconmen, Dick is imprisoned by their ruler Lord Volstratos. The Earthman starts a slave revolt!

"Duel to the Death - Dick and Volstratos agree to meet in single combat to decide the outcome of the slave revolt. Who will prevail?

"Conflict in the Cloud City - Volstratos has come to realize that rebelion against Khang may succeed with Dick Garrison to lead them. A furious Khang orders the cloud city destroyed! This is a two-part scenario where Dick must defuse a bomb in the city's engine room, while Volstratos and his falconmen defeat the Khang assault.

"To Rescue a Prince - Prince Borain has been captured by Khang and will be killed unless Dick Garrison surrenders himself. Can a rescue attempt be made?

"The Magnetronic Death Ray - In order for the rebellion to succeed, Khang's terror weapon must be destroyed.

"The End of a Tyrant - The grand battle! Earthlings, Foresters, Falconmen and Ignians versus Khang's minions."

Mike concludes: "I can't give a good idea of when the playtest draft will be available. Work deadlines and travel are keeping me pretty busy through mid-March."

The current thinking by Wessex Games is to release The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Dick Garrison as a full-colour pdf.

Wolverine & Sabretooth: Brothers In Arms...




The second of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine TV spots giving us an insight into the backstory of Marvel Comic's favourite mutant.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The Week In Geek...

A round-up of geeky news you might have missed...

(1) Knights Go Savage: The latest issue (#148) of Knights Of The Dinner Table features a nine-page pulp-themed Savage Worlds adventure.

(2) Big Bang Delayed Again: Efforts to restart the Large Hadron Collider have hit new snags which will delay the experiment's start until September (a year after it was first turned on!).

(3) Daisies Back From The Dead? Could the axed-before-its-time Pushing Daisies be returning as a film? It could be, according to one of its stars.

(4) Draw! A new Western RPG is being developed, Draw!, inspired by Hawgleg's popular Gutshot miniatures game. It is due for publication in February 2010, and will use a poker game-based mechanic to resolve gun fights and skill checks.

(5) Caprica To Debut On DVD: The Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica will debut on DVD on April 21 before being shown on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2010.

(6) Clone Wars To Continue: The Star Wars animation series Clone Wars has earned itself a second season. This will begin in the Autumn.

(7) Deconstruction Of Falling Stars: Mongoose Publishing puts out a "final", giant 636-page, supplement for its Babylon 5 role-playing game containing previously unpublished material, novels, articles and writer's notes.

(8) The 'Lost' Doctor Who Season: In 2010, Big Finish is to release audio plays, starring the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant), of the scripts originally intended for Season 23 of the Classic Doctor Who series that were shelved to make way for the 'epic' Trial Of A Time Lord.

(9) Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: A zombie-related story so far out it's enough to make Jane Austen claw her way out of the grave and eat someone's brains!

(10) First Space Crash: Two satellites in Earth orbit collided nearly 500 miles above Siberia last week in the first accident of its kind.

(11) Hello, Mummy: Archaeologists unearth a cache of more than 20 mummies in Egypt dating back around 2,600 years.

(12) Huh? Seems like Hollywood will make a film about anything these days - the latest bizarre property to head for big screen glory is Stretch Armstrong, the rubber-limbed toy from the 70s!

(13) Trouble In The Dollhouse: Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse, draws poor ratings in its Friday night slot.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Top Of The Pile: Captain Britain And MI13 #10

One of the few remaining Earth-bound Marvel titles I still pick up, Captain Britain And MI13 has just launched into a new story arc (Vampire State), making issue 10 the perfect jumping on point for new readers.

The opening sequence of this issue features Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula) negotiating an alliance with Doctor Doom (the Marvel Universe's greatest super-villain) to aid his planned conquest of the United Kingdom ("the home of magic"), to transform it into a new homeland for his vampiric people.

The prickly relationship between these two powerful individuals is a joy to behold, and Paul Cornell has nailed Doom's consummate arrogance perfectly.

And if that exchange of dialogue isn't enough to get your juices pumping, this discussion is taking place on the Moon - where Tepes has an underground base.

As a prologue to the new arc, issue 10 then unfolds as a series of vignettes, following Captain Britain - and his colleagues - in their down time after their battle with the demonic Plotka.

Again, we witness Cornell's ability to write three-dimensional characters, with each of the groupings revolving around some different form of underlying romantic - or sexual - tension.

The strongest, and most interesting (if not wholly original) of these of these sub-plots is the budding relationship between the American vampire-hunter Blade and vampire-turned-heroine Spitfire.

While this dynamic may draw inevitable comparisons with the Buffy/Angel romantic entanglement from TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Cornell still gives it a fresh spin, by giving Blade a more human side - contrasting with the unrelenting (almost stereotyped) badass he is normally portrayed as... he even takes his shades off!

Elsewhere, we have the more tentative relationship between new superhero, Faiza Hussain, and The Black Knight. This is a much sweeter affair, and much is left unsaid, allowing the audience to read between the lines.

However, all these sub-plots come to an abrupt end when Dracula's minions strike, in the first stage of his planned conquest of Great Britain... including a personal visit to Faiza's family home by the Prince of Darkness himself.

While Captain Britain And MI13 features recognisable heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe, its U.K. setting means it is well removed from the dull machinations undermining the lives of American superheroes at present and it works as a wonderful bubble of self-contained brilliance.

I intend to stick with this and their cosmic titles to ride out Marvel's on-going storm of mediocrity (currently masquerading under the company-wide banner of Dark Reign).

This lets me keep a finger on the pulse of the Marvel Universe without feeling constantly cheated or intellectually insulted.

Baby Wolverine...



Enjoy this first X-Men Origins: Wolverine TV spot. Two more spots are due over the next couple of days, supposedly giving an insight into the backstory of Marvel Comic's most popular mutant.

The film opens on May 1.

Top Of The Pile: Legion Of 3 Worlds #3

As with issue one and issue two, Legion Of 3 Worlds issue three continues to reign supreme in my monthly stack of comic book reading material.

Geoff Johns, fast becoming my favourite writer, continues to chronicle Superboy-Prime's psychotic rampage across 31st Century Earth at the head of the rag-tag posse of super-villains he freed from the prison planet of Takron-Galtos.

The Legion of Super-Heroes finally seem to be losing ground, until Brainiac 5 turns up with two more iterations of the Legion - from parallel dimensions.

Johns' plotting and writing may be near faultless, but it is George Perez's breath-takingly detailed artwork that steals the show.

As I've said before, he is the master when it comes to illustrating team books - and it seems the more heroes and villains he can squeeze in the better he gets.

This book has pretty much everything I require for a perfect superhero comic - epic scale, cosmic reach, alternate dimensions, characters with god-like powers, human drama, high action - and is a thrill-a-page read.

I saw it written somewhere that Final Crisis, which this series somehow ties-in to, was a "love letter" to Superman, and I have to say that that description holds true for Legion Of 3 Worlds as well. Superman is shown to be the cornerstone of the DC Universe, the bravest and the best, and an inspiration to generations of other heroes. He may not be able to do everything himself, but, because of him, other people are driven to do their utmost in any given situation.

With two issues left in this mini-series, it's going to be one heck of a multiverse-encompassing ride - which will then lead us into Adventure Comics issue one later this year and the continuing tales of the Legion Of Super-Heroes.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Doomsday Clock Is Counting Down...




New TV spots are appearing thick and fast in the United States as the opening day for Watchmen (March 6) draws nearer. This one is more low-key than previous, but still grabs you.

I Choo-Choose You!

What better way to spend Valentine's Day than doing something you love with the person you love? Well, that was my patter for getting Rachel along to the annual Tonbridge Model Railway Show yesterday.

To be fair, she is the one with an actual working layout (Midale), which still resides at her parents' house until we can clear out the back room and move it - and her dollshouses - in.

We met Nick and Clare at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge. They were also doing the Valentine thing, and we took a stroll through some of the ground floor displays with them.

As they had got to the show before us they then went upstairs, while we finished our downstairs viewing - before heading upstairs ourselves for more displays.

The trend this year was for bigger displays and I also saw a lot more 'O' Gauge layouts than usual. Nick observed that the balance of displays of rural idyll against urban industrialisation was about even.

We made the strategic error of going to the show mid-morning, so it was packed with people, which made some of the more popular displays harder to get to see, but I think we managed to see them all in the end.

My favourite display of the day was Foss Landing (as pictured above), a very detailed quayside layout with working sign lights (and a strip club), while Rachel was rather taken with a modern day N Gauge layout of a typical London scene, complete down to the tiny, scale graffiti on its bridge.

More of my pictures (of variable quality) can be found here.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Celebrate Valentine's With "Your" Lois Lane!

The polls have closed and the votes are in - Teri Hatcher (pictured left) is the favourite live-action Lois Lane among HeroPress readers.

Romping away with 38 per cent of the votes, she took an early lead from my favourite (Margot Kidder) and held on right through to the finishing line.

I guess a lot of you, like Rachel, probably grew up with Teri Hatcher on TV and so she was your "first" Lois Lane.

For me, it will always be Margot Kidder (from the Christopher Reeve films), as she was my "first". Margot came in a respectable second with 27 per cent of the votes.

In an impressive third, with 15 per cent of the votes, was Noel Neill from the original 1950's serials leaving Smallville's Erica Durance (9%) and Superman Returns' Kate Bosworth (6%) in her wake.

I'll admit I expected Erica to do better because not only is she a total hottie, but she is the current Lois Lane, clocking in an hour of screen time every week on Smallville.

Holding up the bottom of the chart was Phyllis Coates (2%) who, as far as I know, only played Lois once, - in Superman And The Mole-Men - back in 1951.

Thank you to the 44 readers who voted; I feel that was enough variety to draw a statistically viable conclusion (I've read press releases during my time as a journalist with more tenuous statistical date).

P.S. I'd also like to take a moment to apologise for the number of typos that have crept into HeroPress of late (including the howler in the heading of the poll itself which, as Rachel pointed out to me, read "how is your favourite Lois Lane?", not "who is...").

I don't know why I've taken my eye off the ball in recent weeks, but I promise I will try to pull my socks up and actually read what I have written before publishing it in the future.

Valentine's In A Flash...

Rachel outdid herself this year with my Valentine's present: a hoodie modelled after the costume of one of my favourite superheroes - The Flash.

I'd pointed out to her an article over on Geek Orthodox before Christmas about the extreme desirability of a Batman hoodie.

When I trawled the 80Tees.com website (the company which manufactures these authentic DC Comics items), I spotted the Flash costume hoodie and told Rachel that was the one I prefered.

Roll on a couple of months and this morning I was unwrapping a large present containing said hoodie. It even has a face mask and the wings on the head gear.

And, yes, for those who know me, I do see the irony of someone in a Flash costume hobbling along with a walking stick.

HeroPress Is On The Air...

Thanks to Louis Porter Jr's In The Mind Of A Mad Man blog, you will notice a "listen now" button on every entry in HeroPress from now on and a button over on the right-hand side of the page with "Odiogo" under a sign that says: "Subscribe To My Podcast".

Before anyone gets too excited, this is not the long-mooted, fabled HeroPress podcast, but rather a very clever widget that "reads" my blog text in a "near-human" robotic voice. It's not perfect, for instance it ignores brackets and obviously has no concept of tone or emphasis, but it's still pretty neat. If you like that sort of thing.

Rachel was worried that people might think it was my real voice and that somehow I had patiently sat down and read all the entries outloud then uploaded them for your enjoyment. I'd like to stress it is not me!

But not only does Odiogo put a voice to my blog, but it makes the entries available as a podcast (subscribe here), so you can download my ramblings onto your iPod or MP3 player and never miss a HeroPress update.

And this might, actually, encourage me to pull my finger out and get on with the real HeroPress podcast that I have been threatening you all with for the last year or so... but don't hold your breath.

Let me know what you make of the robot readings. I'd be interested to hear your feedback.

As an aside, I have also added Odiogo to my Chronicles of Tekralh blog, which charts the progress of The Tuesday Knights gaming group in my monthly Castles & Crusades roleplaying campaign.

It's fascinating to hear what the machine makes of the fantasy words and names I have seeded throughout those entries... and is just another way of making our game that bit more interactive.

UPDATE: The "subscribe to my podcast" button doesn't seem to work as such; it, instead, takes you to a page of different subscription options. The best of these, should you wish to follow HeroPress in its audio form, is probably to cut and paste the following code into the right spot on your MP3 player software: http://podcasts.odiogo.com/heropress/podcasts-xml.php

Friday, 13 February 2009

It's Friday The 13th...



Happy birthday, Jason! The unstoppable, zombie, killing-machine goes back to his roots in the re-imagined Friday the 13th (in cinemas today) and you can find out the legends and myths behind people's belief in the "ill omens" that surround this date at the informative About.com: Urban Legends site.

Stay safe!

Top Of The Pile: Adventure Comics #0

Like a dealer offering you your first hit for next to nothing, DC has put out Issue 0 of its new Adventure Comics for the credit crunch-busting cover price of one dollar (about 75 pence over in the UK).

The main story in this nicely-priced issue is a reprint of the first Superboy and The Legion Of Super-Heroes story from way back (Adventure Comics #247 in its original run), which I discussed in my review of 1,050 Years Of The Future (the celebration of the first 50 years of Legion history).

The back-up feature in Adventure Comics #0, however, is penned by the great Geoff Johns, who brings his Midas touch to a short prelude piece in DC's current cross-title promotion Origins & Omens.

This short story - narrated by the rogue Guardian Of The Universe known as Scar - looks at Lex Luthor's attempt to break out of prison by reactivating Brainiac, only to have the tables turned on him by the alien.

Meanwhile, Scar - who will be a key player in the forthcoming Blackest Night storyline in the Green Lantern titles - reveals a potential "Black Lantern" (a dead character from the DC Universe) with a connection to both Luthor and Superman who she believes will save Luthor "from Brainiac, from Superman, and from yourself".

Adventure Comics begins its new run in June, following on from Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, and will hopefully be the new home of the Legion!
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