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Monday, 31 May 2010

The Week In Geek (part two)...

A second helping of geeky news you might have otherwise missed...

(1) You Won't Rob These Zombie Hunters: There's an undeniable Devil's Rejects quality about this excellent new collection of five 28mm zombie hunter figures, known as The Midnight Raiders, from Raven Painting.

(2) Inside Track To DC Adventures: Green Ronin's Chris Pramas spills the beans on the forthcoming DC Adventures roleplaying game - and the third edition of Mutants & Masterminds.

(3) Highly Charged Contents: A 50-page, pdf sourcebook is now available for the SUPERS! roleplaying game from Beyond Belief Games, featuring optional rules, setting background, an adventure and pre-designed characters and villains.

(4) Podcast With Character: The latest Vigilance podcast features an impromptu ICONS character generation session with the game's artist Dan Houser.

(5) Smallville Soap: The Games The Thing's Super May coverage concludes with a podcast interview with Cam Banks, of Margaret Weis Productions, about the nontraditional, soap opera mechanics of the upcoming licensed Smallville RPG.

(6) Golden Age Of Superhero Movies: Warner Bros is developing movies based on The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

(7) Never Say Never Again: While the James Bond film franchise may have ground to a halt, a new novel is coming out from thriller writer Jeffrey Deaver on Ian Fleming's 105th birthday next year, May 28.

(8) Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Book: The official book of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is due out in October, featuring exclusive new material from Joss Whedon and the production team, new photos and sheet music.

(9) Buffy Gets Serious: Issue five - June 2010 - of Watcher Junior "the undergraduate journal of Whedon studies" is now online, featuring articles on drugs and addiction in the Buffyverse and the artwork of Buffy comics.

(10) Feel The Pulse: Paul Cornell's medical horror pilot Pulse airs on BBC3 on Thursday (June 3) at 9pm, but those in the UK can watch it on online now.

(11) Runaways Movie Will Have No Heroics: The movie adaptation of Marvel's teen superheroes comic Runaways is to be written by Drew Pearce, who was responsible for the utterly dire failed British superhero sitcom No Heroics.

(12) Will Superheroes Be The New Urban Fantasy? Urban fantasy author Kelly Meding has signed a two-book deal for her new series about young 'legacy' superheroes.

(13) Star Wars Disappears: All Star Wars content has now disappeared from the Wizards Of The Coast website, in the wake of them not renewing their license.

(14) Apama Is Nigh: Apama, the comic book central to the indie film Hero Tomorrow, has a cover and is about a month away from being unleashed on the comic-reading public.

(15) Helmless Hobbit: Because of the numerous delays with the project, Guillermo Del Toro has pulled out of directing the two Lord Of The Rings prequels that were to tell the story of The Hobbit, although he will continue to work on the scripts.

The Week In Geek...

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

(1) A God Among Men Has Died: The legendary actor and force of nature Dennis Hopper has passed away. He was 74.

(2) Time To Say Good-Bye: The high priest of geek, Reis O'Brien, of Geek Orthodox, is hanging up his luchador mask and closing his immensely popular blog (but will still be running Crom!, his Conan fan blog).

(3) Pond In Your Pocket: A 5" Amy Pond (left) is among the recent wave action figures announced for the current season of Doctor Who. Collectors will also be able to get their hands on a Second World War dalek, one of the new-look daleks and a regenerating Weeping Angel.

(4) Elementary Deduction: Some early teases about the next Sherlock Holmes film, with Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law.

(5) Angels To Fly Again: Smallville's Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have been charged by ABC with bringing back Charlie's Angels.

(6) Want To Own A "Haunted" House? The property made famous by the Amityville Horror is up for sale, for $1.15 million.

(7) Alpha Male: Jack Bender, director of the Lost finale, is now tackling Alphas, a Heroesesque tale of 'ordinary' people with extraordinary superpowers.

(8) Lost Not Finished? The DVD set of the sixth season contains an "epilogue" focusing on Hurley and Ben, on the Island, in the wake of Jack's departure.

(9) Crossover Image: The first image connected to the Warehouse 13/Eureka crossover episodes - and a good excuse for a picture of the lovely
Allison Scagliotti.

(10) Bloody Teases Dropped By Ball: Alan Ball, creator of the TV series True Blood, drops some hints as to watch people can expect in season three.

(11) McAvoy To Teach First Class: James McAvoy has enrolled in X-Men: First Class to take on the character of a young Charles Xavier, founder of Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters.

(12) Lantern Gets Animated: A Green Lantern animated television series will air on Cartoon Network, in the Autumn of 2011, to tie-in with the Green Lantern movie which opens in June of that year.

(13) In Brightest Day: Warner Bros. has released the official synopsis of next year's Green Lantern movie.

(14) Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside: SteamPunk Magazine is hosting a weekend of steampunky events at the Little Marlborough Theatre in Brighton next month.

(15) More Mortal Engines: Philip Reeve is to pen a new 10,000 word World Of Mortal Engines story for next year's World Book Day.

(16) Shooting Misfits: Filming has begun on the second season of E4's surprisingly excellent oiks-with-superpowers series, Misfits, for broadcast in November.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

DVD Of The Week: Daybreakers (2009)

The conceit of a world overrun by vampires, where humans are harvested for their blood is an interesting - if not wholly original - one, but beyond this initial set-up Daybreakers does little to push the envelope of the vampire genre.

Opening with a scene of a child vampire committing suicide by sitting outside waiting for the sunrise (because she's never going to get any older), Daybreakers initially looks as though it's going to be something startling, horrific and intelligent.

Instead, it quickly devolves into a very mundane, if gory and nonetheless thrilling, action adventure yarn.

It's 2019 and the vampires have taken over, nearly driving humans to extinction - but the problem (for the vampires) is the global blood supply is running out.

Vampires who go without human blood for too long - or who drink vampire blood (including their own) start to degenerate into bestial, Nosferatu-esque, winged creatures known as "subsiders".

Enter vampire hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), a human-sympathiser trying to perfect a blood substitute for the major pharmaceutical company he works for, that is run by stone cold Charles Bromley (Sam Neill).

Dalton gets involved with a group of human survivors, who count among their number Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac (Willem Dafoe), a vampire 'cured' of his condition by a freak accident which Edward seeks to replicate in the hopes of finding a cure for vampirism.

As an antipodean production K9 fans should look out for a cameo from Robyn Moore (aka K9's June Turner) as Forensic Investigator Simms, while Star Wars fans will spot Jay Laga'aia (aka Captain Typho from Attack Of The Clones) as vampire senator Turner and the female lead Claudia Karvan, playing Audrey Bennett (the de facto leader of the human survivors) has appeared in Revenge Of The Sith, Farscape, Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World and the pretty awful Long Weekend .

It's really the look of Daybreakers that wins out over the content; the thought that has gone into designing a "vampire-safe" world is most impressive, which is why it's almost a shame that a lot of action - especially during the middle portion of the film - takes place in scrubland and an old vineyard.

The basic story is very straight forward, with few sidesteps, mysteries or red herrings, although it's slowed slightly by a totally pointless sub-plot involving Bromley's human daughter (Home & Away star Isabel Lucas). However this padding is made up for in the a totally over-the-top, Grand Guignol feeding frenzy at the climax of the movie that is more akin to a zombie flick than a vampire one.

The domino effect of vampire's "curing" each other during this final orgy of blood is quite smart, but clearly by this stage writer/directors Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig are more concerned with splashing blood over the camera and wrenching peoples' guts out than anything else. And who can blame them?

It makes a change to see a film where the vampires outnumber the humans - quite considerably - which gives this story a slightly epic flavour, but it certainly doesn't live up to its potential, especially when you consider the amount of fascinating 'world building' that has obviously gone on to create the vampire society of 2019.

For a smarter take on a similar(ish) idea, of vampire and human co-existence, check out 2006's Perfect Creature, instead.

Animation Of The Week: Superman - The Last Son Of Krypton (1996)

Does the world need another retelling of the most famous comic book origin story?

Of course not, but the Alan Burnett and Paul Dini scripted Superman: The Last Son Of Krypton puts enough new spins on the tale, while staying faithful to the central story, to provide many, many new plot lines for the cartoon series that followed.

The first 20 minutes of the hour-long feature are set during the last days of Krypton, as heroic scientist Jor-El (Christopher McDonald) tries to convince the ruling council that the planet is about to explode.

However, his attempts are thwarted by the controlling computer system, Brainiac (voiced by Corey Burton), which is only interested in preserving its own existence.

The Superman mythology is full of iconic, classic villains and Brainiac - like Lex Luthor - is one of the most enduring. To have it as a creation of Kryptonian technology (as it also is in Smallville), definitely adds a different level of emotional attachment for Kal-El (aka Superman).

Toddler Kal-El, son of Jor-El and his wife Lara, is dispatched to Earth in a space rocket where he is found and adopted by Jonathan (Mike Farrell) and Martha Kent (Shelley Fabares), in Smallville, Kansas, and raised as their own son, Clark Kent (Tim Daly).

Clark's time in Smallville is compressed to about 10 minutes, during which time he discovers his powers, learns of his true heritage and piques the interest of childhood friend Lana Lang (Kelly Schmidt), before it's off to Metropolis and a career as a journalist on the Daily Planet.

There's even an off-hand remark about the "nut in Gotham" (presumably Batman), which opens the doors for tie-ins there and establishes the simple, but useful, fact that Superman is not the only costumed character on the planet.

The final half of the film sees the people of Metropolis coming to terms with the arrival of their new guardian angel.

Hot-headed reporter Lois Lane (Dana Delany) is eager for the inside scoop on Superman's secrets, while powerful businessman and arms dealer Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) discovers he has a powerful enemy in the "last son of Krypton".

Luthor is tied up in some shady dealings with an international terrorist group, which Superman disrupts - in the process tangling with mercenary John Corben (Malcolm McDowell), the future Metallo.

Although Lois' first encounter with Superman doesn't involve her falling out of a helicopter or being on a crashing spaceplane - he saves her from a collapsing girder - the plane crash sequence is in there, and rather interestingly Superman makes a bit of a botch job of his rescue attempt.

For one thing, he is responsible for causing the plane to fall out of the sky in the first place, but then - obviously still not entirely au fait with the limits of his powers - initially fumbles his attempts to save the plane from hitting Metropolis.

While not as edge-of-the-seat thrilling as the sequence in Superman Returns (sadly the only exciting sequence in that sorry movie), the Last Son Of Krypton version of events shows a more convincing, neophyte superhero, still with a lot to learn.

The animated movie closes out with a great coda that sees an alien space craft discovering the Brianiac pod and being taken over by the artificial intelligence.

In 60 minutes, the film makers have created a unique version of Superman, but with enough similarities to the established canon that a casual viewer won't be confused, with plenty of story potential for the series that was to follow.

Eurovision: Germany? Who'd've Thunk It?



Lena - Satellite, a worthy winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between Bjork and Avril Lavigne. Rather smugly I chose her as my winner from the first time I heard the song, and also picked Turkey's MaNga to come in second. My most successful year of predictions for a long time.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Doctor Who: Cold Blood

Have your handkerchiefs at the ready because Cold Blood ends with one of the most shocking tragedies (in effect a double tragedy) witnessed in Doctor Who's long run and a glimpse into the future that doesn't bode well for The Doctor and the TARDIS.

Breaking the New Who curse that a strong start to a two-parter is usually followed by a slightly disappointing conclusion, Cold Blood makes up for its lack of action with powerful, emotional and intellectual drama.

Picking up from the end of The Hungry Earth, while The Doctor and Nasreen are exploring the Homo Reptilia city they have discovered underground, Rory, Ambrose and Tony are left in charge of the captive, Alaya - the human's only bargaining chip to prevent a war between the species.

Unfortunately, Alaya goads Ambrose into killing her, at the same as The Doctor is brokering a peace treaty with the leader of the Silurians, Eldane (Stephen Moore). Moore has one of the most recognisable, calming and charismatic voices and will forever be linked with Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (where he was, primarily, the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android).

He also acts as narrator for the story, which adds a whole new angle as we discover he is commenting on the proceedings from a point in the future that adds a certain degree of optimism to the course of events.

However, the idea of sharing of the Earth with "apes" doesn't go down well with the Silurian military commander, Restac, played by Neve McIntosh, who also played the character's sister, Alaya, and she decides a total subjugation of the human species is a much better arrangement.

Having thought about it some more over the past week, it's clear that this branch of Homo reptilia - being devoid of the Classic era Silurian third eye and psychic powers - is more closely related to the Silurian's cousins, the Sea Devils. Just look at the sweep of the head and the nozzle shape of the guns they use.

Initially it looked as though this episode was going to be a lot of running around in corridors, as Amy quickly escapes the threat of vivisection and rescues Mo, who is determined to save his son, Elliot, when he discovers he is being held underground as well.

But its quickly grows into a wonderful, subtle, character piece with genuine dilemma and tension, designed to bring out the "best" in people - or not.

Amy was wonderfully plucky and resourceful as ever - picking the scientist's pocket to get the trigger device to unlock her restraints - while husband-to-be Rory is shaping up to be a great addition to the TARDIS crew, his obvious admiration and respect for The Doctor making such a change from previous "young males" who have recently traveled in the blue box.

To go into too much detail would be spoilerific and this is such an incredible conclusion to a great story that the less you know going in the better. I'm positive the aftershocks of the events here will be felt throughout the four remaining episodes of the season... and possibly beyond.

Captain America... The Serial... Part 10...



Captain America is taking a break next week for something special...

Ladies & Gentlemen, The Lord Giveth And He Taketh Away...

It's been "all go" on the HeroPress superteam front as, having hit my 100 target in the middle of the month, we then lost someone this week and then picked up a new recruit on Tuesday in the shape of:

* Mark

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Supernatural: 99 Problems

The writers of Supernatural have sure been dipping into their Book Of Revelation for research, because Julie Siege picked out a brilliant element to be the core of 99 Problems - this week's episode which sets things up for the titanic 100th episode next week.

On the run from demons, Sam and Dean come across a small, isolated town that not only knows of demons and the Apocalypse, but is fully geared up to face it.

The focal point of their knowledge is Pastor David Gideon (Larry Poindexter) and his young daughter Leah (Kayla Mae Maloney) who relays messages to the townsfolk from the angels, alerting them to demon ambushes and demon nests etc

However, as Leah tells people that The End Times is drawing nearer, her angelic edicts become harsher and more divisive, turning towns people on their own kind.

Still reeling from the events of Dark Side Of The Moon, Dean swings between total apathy and supporting Leah's prophetic pronouncements - until he witnesses the gunning down of bar owner Paul (Bruce Ramsey), simply for refusing to leave town after the angels declare drinking as sinful.

While this is going on Cas finally shows up - having been "on a bender" since the revelations about his "deadbeat dad" in the last episode - and, after Sam has explained what has been going on, declares that Leah isn't actually a prophet.

While the 'unmasking' of the town's false prophet didn't really come as much of a shock, her true identity gave me goosebumpy Omen II flashbacks.

99 Problems is good, old fashioned Supernatural doing what it does best - combining action with horror, a dash of black comedy and (in the final reel) an attractive damsel. Concentrating as it is now on the season's main plotline, the show has moved away from its classic 'monster-hunting' roots, but as the end draws near the sense of impending doom is quite palpable.

However, emotionally, the most powerful scene came in the last 10 minutes of the episode, after Dean slipped away from Sam and the towns people, and we got to see his true love, the gorgeous Lisa Braeden (Cindy Sampson) - from The Kids Are Alright - again before he disappeared off to make his all-important 'deal'.

Next episode:

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Only One Shot Fired...

After the fun and excitement of last session's bloodbath mission finale, the group were given some well-deserved R&R in Osaka, Japan, paid for by our employers, Orion.

All our characters had recovered from their various injuries - and we'd made sure, as best we could, that Nick's character Oleg hadn't been brainwashed by Web while he was a prisoner - and Pete had explained how Fame & Fortune (the Top Secret SI equivalent of 'experience points') worked, and we divvied up the 'spoils of war'.

My character, Bicky, had some time to spend with his wife and child, while Clare's character Hermione went to visit her mum and Kevin's character Bruno begun studying the fine art of lockpicking!

Then we were packed off to Japan!

Of course, we should have known 'the holiday' wouldn't last - roleplaying a week of haunting karaoke bars, drinking sake and eating sushi probably wouldn't have been as much fun as it sounds.

We were asked to report urgently to the local TOKKO office (they're the Japanese branch of Orion), where we were briefed by our London liaison Diana Hunter (via video conference) and TOKKO's Mr Pang, in person.

We were being dispatched to a British protectorate, a small atoll about 1,000 miles south of Osaka, called Alulu Island. All contact had been lost with the missionary station on the island and MI6 had reason to believe a mercenary force led by Lt Col Martin 'Mad Merc' Strikewell had taken over the atoll for unknown reasons.

As the nearest British agents, we were charged with getting in there, conducting in-depth reconnaissance and reporting back on the current disposition of the island, and the conditions of the natives and missionaries. We were not - under any circumstances - to engage the mercenaries in combat, and we would not be able to call in any Titan Teams (as had pulled our arses out the fire a number of times on our last mission).

We discussed our plans at great length (knowing full well how they had a tendency to crumble at the first sign of opposition) and decided to go in cautiously, under cover of dark, and check out the lay of the land.

Fully equipped by TOKKO, we were taken to within a short distance by submarine, then sailed a pair of dinghies to the island and made camp. We spent the entire first day at our camp, monitoring activity, taking photographs etc

The island had changed considerably from the 20-year-old maps we were given. The biggest difference was the floating, horseshoe-shaped dock floating off shore from the original native village - and the vast canal that had been ploughed through one side of the atoll. Construction work was still going on on the horseshoe, which was surrounded by buoys, but we have yet to ascertain its purpose.

We could see the missionary building (which also serves as a weather station) from where we were camped and so decided that would be our target for the next night.

Just as we were getting ready to leave a wild dog ran into camp and started barking at us. We tried to ignore it, then we tried to drive it off with rocks and sand and in the end Bruno (Kevin's character) went for it with his machete. Striking its head, all he succeeded in doing was scaring off the bleeding, yelping dog which started to run down the beach with a large knife wound in its skull. With nothing else to do - to stop it accidentally alerting the mercenaries - Bruno pulled out his silenced pistol and capped the pup!

Back on mission, we sailed over to the main part of the atoll, near to the missionary station (a rather nice old Victorian colonial bungalow) and snuck around the outside of the island until we came to the front doors, which were hanging open and showing signs of severe damage.

At that point, after Pete had drawn a big map of the outside of the building on my old battle mat, we decided to call it a night.

Understandably, we were quite impressed that we had so far stuck to the mission and not gone charging in with guns blazing. Of course, everything could change the next time The Tuesday Knights meet (sometime in June).

Additional pictures of our evening can be found here on Facebook.

K9: The Custodians

Starting in media res with twenty million children, including Darius and Jorjie, falling under the telepathic spell of a new virtual reality game called Little Green Men, The Custodians was K9's most competent episode to date.

Without the need for a set-up, and by keeping two of the characters out of the action, the story had room to breathe and for a half-decent plot to take shape.

June took Starkey and K9 to the company responsible for the game, Green Room, where they met John - possibly the best and creepiest character we've yet seen in the show. Not only was John the head of Green Room, but Starkey also identified him as a "custodian" of a juvenile detention centre he had spent some time. I couldn't really grasp the connection here, but it was definitely an attempt to add a genuinely darker edge to the show.

K9 did some wonderful bluffing on June's behalf that he was a "doomsday weapon" that could level the building, and it made me wonder if John Leeson (the main voice of K9 since its Doctor Who days) might not have been channeling some Doctor Who experiences there!

Although clearly a cost-cutting exercise, the blank interiors of Green Room - green in reception, black in the 'meeting room' etc - were also particularly effective at suggesting a slightly surreal, otherworldly atmosphere within the games company.

The falsely-cheerful John, unsurprisingly, turned out to be in league with Thorne and they were both taking advantage of a lonely, super-powerful telepathic alien - the last of his kind - to try and create a generation of docile, subservient children. Unfortunately, the alien had other ideas.

Like the 'malfunctioning' cyborg policeman Birdy, from Mutant Copper, if K9 has a future as a series, then I hope the character of John makes a come-back as I think both have enormous story potential.

While far from perfect, The Custodians had some intelligent moments of character development - and it has to be said that leaving most of the acting to the grown-ups also helped considerably.

The special effects were also very good here, the alien was one of my favoured Power Rangers-style, while the VR headsets - with their built-in self-defense mechanisms - were suitably exotic.

While by no means an original concept - the mind-controlling video game is pretty much a standard for both kid's and adult science-fiction - this is the first episode that I feel could be compared favourably with The Sarah Jane Adventures, the other "children's" branch of the Whoniverse. Not in the same league yet, but certainly heading in that direction at last.

If K9 had been this good from the start I would have had a lot more confidence in it, but perhaps it's now turned a corner.

I have it on good authority - from someone who works on the show - that the season finale, Eclipse Of The Korven, is particularly good.

* There doesn't appear to be any episodes of K9 on DisneyXD this coming weekend, although hopefully that may be a temporary hiatus for half-term.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Top Of The Pile: Zatanna #1

The Justice League's resident spellslinger, Zatanna, has got her own ongoing series and it kicks off with a very Dresden Files flavoured introduction.

Hiding in plain site as a stage magician, she is approached after a show by police detective Dale Colton who asks for an assist at an obvious supernatural murder scene.

The victims are primarily major league gangsters and Zatanna uses her magic to discover the identity of the killers.

It's a gang of known supernatural villains led by an old compadre of her father's, Brother Night - who, until now, has been content to run San Francisco's supernatural underworld for 40 years, but never before bothered with the mortal world.

Zatanna travels to Brother Night's lair, a grim demonic S&M club by the look of it, to confirm her fears that he is now expanding his empire.

Paul Dini's story is simple, pacy, and easy to follow, but also the right degree of thrilling and intriguing, complemented by Stephane Roux's pencils - inked by Karl Story - which remind me strongly of Georges Jeanty's work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season Eight. This, with the Dresden File-like set-up certainly reinforced the genre tropes that I believe Dini was aiming for.

Zatanna's backwards-spoken spells can be a bit of a headache, but I realise that's her shtick, so I can accept that that particular gimmick isn't going to be retconned out any time soon.

Happy Third Anniversary To Us!

Hard to believe it's now been three years since Rachel walked across the gardens of Salomons to the sounds of the Imperial March and Darth Vader acted as our ring bearer.

Although our actual wedding anniversary is today, we celebrated on Sunday by returning to Salomons, just outside Tunbridge Wells, for a tasty carvery lunch, then a walk round the gardens - to see parts we didn't get a chance to on our wedding day.

This evening's celebrations take the form of the latest meeting of The Tuesday Knights, with cupcakes (supplied by Nick and Clare) and pizza. We're also celebrating the fact that six-month wed Nick and Clare - who met at our wedding - sold Nick's flat at the weekend and are now looking for a house to rent.

Exciting times!

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Week In Geek (extra portion)...

A second helping of geeky news you might have otherwise missed...

(1) Doctor Flying At Eagles: The Eagle Award nominations have been revealed and Tony Lee's Doctor Who comics have eight nods between them.

(2) What Kelvin Said: Frequent HeroPress commentator Kelvin Green casts his critical eye over issue one of the new Avengers comic from Marvel - and finds it wanting!

(3) Solo Speaks: Harrison Ford finally shares his thoughts on working on the Star Wars movies.

(4) Compare The Dalek: Doctor Who Online has launched a price comparison site for Doctor Who merchandising called Compare The Dalek.

(5) You're The Best: The Comics Should Be Good blog reveals its Top 10 Wally West Flash stories, as voted for by readers. Other characters covered in this series of reader polls can be found here.

The Week In Geek...

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


(1) Steampunk Is Dead: Read its obituary, courtesy of Mortal Engines author Philip Reeve.

(2) Megamind Coming At Ya: Ignoring the fact that this (see trailer above) is being released in 3D, Megamind looks like an hilarious riff on Superman mythology from DreamWorks Animation. It's due to open on November 5 - and hopefully the 3D fad will be over by then!

(3) Mutant Savings: Faster Monkey Games, publishers of Re-Energizers, the first full-length adventure supplement for Mutant Future, is reducing the prices of its entire catalogue by one-third, until May 31 (Memorial Day in the US).

(4) The End Of Smallville: The superheroes of Smallville are hanging up their tights and masks at the end of the show's next (tenth) season and calling it a day.

(5) Crossover TV: Eureka's Sheriff Carter is teaming up with Warehouse 13's Claudia Donovan in August for the shows' first crossover episodes. More please!

(6) So Ya Wanna Cosplay? iFanboy offers up an introduction to the noble art of cosplaying, ahead of San Diego Comic Con.

(7) Glee-tastic Joss: 10 interesting 'facts' about Joss Whedon's Glee episode Dream On (showing tonight on UK TV).

(8) Time Travel & Dinosaurs: Some early information on Steven Spielberg's new television show, Terra Nova.

(9) MTV Howls: MTV has ordered 12 episodes of the new weekly TV reimagining of the Michael J Fox classic Teen Wolf.

(10) No More Fox: Megan Fox will not be appearing in Transformers 3.

(11) Seven-Year-Old Writer: The Beano has taken on a seven-year-old writer for his Fred's Bed strip about a young boy's adventures in the strange lands he finds under his bed.

(12) Benny 11: Former literary and audio companion of The Doctor, Bernice Summerfield returns for her 11th season of Big Finish audio dramas later this year.

(13) Another Week, Another Icon: Steve Kenson is on The Games The Thing podcast - as part of their 'Super May' weekly podcasts - talking about the forthcoming publication of his new superhero RPG, ICONS. Next week, the guest is Cam Banks, of Margaret Weis Productions, discussing the Smallville RPG.

(14) The Torch Is Relit: Titan is to publish an ongoing Torchwood comic from August.

(15) Blood Flows: Check out the trailer for True Blood Season Three, which begins in the US on June 13.

(16) Heroes On Life Support: Although Heroes has been axed, creator Tim Kring still dreams of keeping his baby alive in some format.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Planning A Summer Break...

Many people (usually of the non-geek variety) express amazement that I don't get bored stuck at home all day and can't understand how I entertain myself.

Actually as time has gone on I've found more and more activities to keep my brain occupied to the extent that these days I'm probably juggling too many hobbies and "distractions".

Going through several hundred blogs and web-pages every day researching items for HeroPress' Week In Geek column alone eats up a large chunk of every day. Not only is it a good discipline, but it keeps me somewhat abreast of what's going on in the various entertainment arenas I find interesting.

That said, I'm toying with the idea of taking a summer vacation from HeroPress - once the current seasons of Doctor Who, K9 and Supernatural have run their course - primarily to catch up on my reading.

As it looks like we might get a half-decent summer, I'd rather be outside getting some fresh air, reading books and comics, listening to podcasts etc than stuck inside all the time.

I also haven't been feeling my best for over a month now and I think the prospect of some prolonged fresh air, away from self-imposed deadlines, can only help.

This certainly isn't going to the end of HeroPress. More a chance to regroup and rethink strategies. For one thing I want to try and steer the focus back to the blog's roots - superheroes. It isn't something I've been ignoring, but I feel it maybe isn't getting the coverage it deserves.

But the main thing I want to do this summer is read. And maybe turn my hand to a bit of creative writing again - after my last attempt stalled when I saw the first trailer for Inception and realised how similar my idea was to that. Curse Christopher Nolan for raiding my dream vault!

Sure I'll watch TV and DVDs while I'm 'on vacation', maybe even get to the cinema, and I might pop up to write the odd review or article on HeroPress if the mood takes me, but the current thinking is that regular postings will halt in about six or seven weeks' time (I believe my three review programmes have about six weeks of story left them in them - if they stick to their current broadcast schedule) and then resume in the autumn (at the latest).

With any luck the prospect of continuing monthly geek pin-ups will keep my reader numbers up and you probably won't even notice I've been away!

UPDATE (May 23, 10.30pm): Oh no - I announce I'm planning to take a break in six weeks time and I lose a Follower immediately... we're down to 99 again!

UPDATE (May 25, 3.15pm): We're back up to 100!

DVD Of The Week: Legion (2010)

Legion is a difficult film to critique because it feels incomplete, as though it is simply a segment of a larger work.

I was fortunate enough, having read the graphic novel Legion: Prophets, to at least have some idea about the rest of the world writer/director Scott Stewart had created for his characters, but I doubt many people watching this did.

What we have here - when you strip away all the religious mumbo-jumbo - is a classic 'last stand' movie in the style of Zulu or Assault On Precinct 13.

A typical Hollywood group of mismatched individuals find themselves stranded at a remote truckstop in the middle of the desert when the Apocalypse comes and have to fight for their survival against legions of possessed beings.

The End Times are never really shown, just hinted at (a lot is 'just hinted at' in Legion, in a way that's probably supposed to be quite dramatic, but really you just wish they'd tell us what was going on).

Having been hassled by a possessed granny (Jeanette Miller), certainly the most memorable character in the movie (shame she appears near the start), and dealt with her, the inhabitants of the diner meet Michael (Paul Bettany), a wingless ex-angel who exiled himself from Heaven to protect the human race he loves so much.

However, he's actually there to guard the unborn child of feisty waitress Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), and everyone else in the diner is pretty much expendable.

There's some vague waffle about the child being the future saviour of mankind, but God's raison d'etre for unleashing his wrath on mankind at this exact point - rather than, say, when Hitler was ordering mass atrocities in the death camps of World War II - is vague and only "hinted at".

Why the possessed hordes who surround the diner and exhibit all the signs we generally associate with demonic possession (i.e. body manipulation, spouting foul language, climbing across ceilings etc) are said to be "angels" is also only "hinted at".

What Michael means when he tells Charlie and her protector Jeep (Lucas Black) to "find the Prophets" isn't even hinted at and is pretty meaningless unless you've read the graphic novel prequel to the movie.

Having sat through the 100 minutes of Legion, there's no denying that Scott Stewart was relying on at least one sequel to tie up all the loose ends here, but the problem is, of course, there are too many loose ends for anyone to really get a handle on, or make an emotional investment in, the movie in the first place.

Personally, for all its shortcomings, I enjoyed it for what it was and for the fact that - with only the smallest of tweaks - it could easily have been an extended episode of Supernatural or, with a bit more effort, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. What can I say? I'm a sucker for an Apocalypse.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Steven Moffat is playing the "Classic Era Who" card again with The Hungry Earth - written by Chris Chibnall - an episode that could have been lifted whole from Jon Pertwee's time as the Earth-bound Third Doctor.

Not only does the story bring back the Silurians (as I'd hoped would happen in this new age of Doctor Who), albeit a different branch of the race (and The Doctor alludes wonderfully to the old chestnut about their name being a misnomer), but the deep-Earth drilling operation is also a classic trope of the Pertwee era (cf. Inferno), complete with a minor romantic sub-plot within the mine staff.

As with The Time Of Angels, The Hungry Earth is a beat-perfect first part of a two-part story which sees The Eleventh Doctor, Rory and Amy arriving in the churchyard of an isolated mining village in Wales in 2020, when they were actually heading to Rio.

Immediately the Doctor's interest is piqued by patches of blue grass in the graveyard and the nearby mining operation, where he meets mine operators Nasreen Chaudry (Meera Syal) and Tony Mack (Robert Pugh), as well as local meals-on-wheels lady Ambrose (Nia Roberts, a Welsh Felicia Day) - and her dyslexic son Elliot (Samuel Davies) - whose husband has recently disappeared.

Rory is mistaken for a police officer and told about bodies disappearing from graves, while the mining operation is attacked from below somehow and Amy dragged down into the Earth.

Studying the mining equipment, the Doctor discovers that while Nasreen and Tony have been drilling deeper into the Earth than ever before, something has been traveling up from below at the same time.

Eventually, the Silurians show themselves (could have done without the ridiculous giant CGI tongue, but it only appeared once so I can overlook that) - but only after Elliot has been taken as well - and The Doctor and Rory manage to capture one to use as a bargaining chip in hostage negotiations to get Amy, Elliot and Mo (Alun Raglan), Ambrose's husband, back.

The Doctor decides to descend into the Earth - in the TARDIS - to open negotiations and charges the humans guarding Alaya (Neve McIntosh), the defiant captive Silurian, to be on their best behavior and avoid sparking a war between the original inhabitants of Earth and the current surface dwellers.

Alaya, however, is more interested in reclaiming the planet for her awakened people, threatened as they were by the innocent mining operation.

Taking Nasreen with him in the TARDIS, The Doctor is convinced they are looking for a tribe of maybe a dozen Silurians. He is very, very wrong.

Capitalising on the old school feel of the episode, the cliff-hanger ending dives headfirst into pure pulp magazine/conspiracy theory/weird science territory and left me 'hungry' for the concluding episode, Cold Blood, next Saturday.

With Amy spending the majority of the episode as a captive of the Silurians, The Hungry Earth takes every opportunity to explore the relationship between The Doctor and Rory and what's immediately obvious is that they treat each other as great mates, there is nothing adversarial about the dynamic as the previous two incarnations of The Doctor were with the male beaus of their traveling companions.

This episode also cemented my belief and confidence in the genius of Matt Smith as the mercurial Doctor; he always seems to be in motion, either twirling as he moves or working his long fingers - he is fascinating to watch and a genuine eccentric, having now reigned in the slightly manic elements left over from his Tenth persona following his regeneration.

He is fast on his way to possibly establishing himself as my favourite Doctor. I just wish he always had material like The Hungry Earth to work with.

K9: Mutant Copper

Overlooking K9's readout that described the damaged cyborg policeman as a "plonker" at one point, Mutant Copper was another potentially good episode of K9.

Starkey, Jorjie and Jorjie's new boyfriend Marcus are doing their political protesting bit during an open-air broadcast about increased CCPC powers, when they are saved from arrest by a damaged CCPC.

The damaged cyborg - who they name 'Birdy' for its obsession with birds - turns out to have been experimented on in the Department Labs and had human DNA grafted into its circuitry (I was a bit confused here because my understanding of the term 'cyborg' was 'part-man, part-machine' anyway, but CCPCs - it turns out - are actually androids, humanoid robots with no human element normally).

With Darius' help, they get Birdy back to the Professor's mansion. Jorjie's mum, June, is horrified that they are harbouring 'stolen' Department property, but even more horrified by the fact that it has been experimented with.

She confronts Thorne - who is a wonderfully more sinister villain than Drake ever was - who promptly makes recovering the cyborg 'top priority' for the city's CCPC force.

Although generally handled in quite a superficial way, there are trace elements of this story that reminded me of the 'lost' Second Doctor story , The Evil Of The Daleks, (and subsequent mentions) of efforts to graft the "human factor" into daleks.

Mutant Copper also featured a nice twist, a betrayal (which actually caught me slightly by surprise as it was almost totally out of the blue) and a satisfying ending that left the door open for the character of Birdy to return at a later date.

On the other hand, the biggest disappointment in the script - despite efforts to paper over this - is the continued flagrant flouting of the law by K9 and company right under the nose of Thorne and his Department cronies.

Given that Britain is supposed to be a Big Brother-style police state in this show, our heroes get away with way too much - without being clever about it - to maintain any sense of credibility. If that element of this story had been handled with a bit more thought, this could have been a cracking episode.

Twilight Update...

Four chapters into the audio book of Twilight and I have had to take a break to listen to some podcasts.

Some critics on iTunes have had problems with Ilyana Kadushin's (the reader's) voice, but I'm enjoying it - my problems are with the character of Bella; the narrator and so-called heroine of the tale, she's such a whiny, unappreciative, self-centred teenager that I can't understand (so far) why anyone would want to relate to her... or even like her.

At this juncture, Edward Cullen has just saved Bella from being crushed by the car skidding on ice and everything's pretty much going as it did in the movie, except for the absence of Joshua, the native American werewolf dude.

Of course, having seen the movie - and not lived under a rock for the last two years - there is no real mystery about who (or what) Edward and his 'family' are. However I still have a major mental block coping with the idea of vampires walking around in the day - even if it is always cloudy and raining in Forks.

What part of "creatures of the night" didn't they understand at vampire training school?

Anyway, another couple of podcasts then I'll be pressing on and report back later on my progress.

This Has Got To Stop!

My daily visits to mine the geek haul in Tonbridge's Help The Aged store have been well documented this week (here and here), but as of yesterday I had been every day and I was now spending money I technically didn't have (offsetting these 'once-in-a-lifetime' purchases against the prospect of getting money in via benefits and eBay sales).

My Friday purchases were these four action figures (see above) - three members of The Flash's Rogues Gallery (Captain Cold, Mirror Master and Gorilla Grodd) and the first figure I saw in the shop window, back on Monday, John Constantine (who I also thought would 'work' well with my Buffy figures).

I've always had a great attachment to The Flash and his Rogues - harking back (once again) to my very first encounters with American comics, when I was about eight, one of the first I ever read was a Silver Age issue of The Flash in which, I'm pretty sure, he was tangling with The Mirror Master.

So I can just about justify these purchases by playing the 'nostalgia' card.

Unfortunately when I said to the manageress of the shop, who has served me for the last four days, that I thought I'd reached the end of my budget (and probably crossed that line about 24 hours earlier) she said: "Didn't you say that yesterday?" and added kindly/wickedly that if there was anything I liked but couldn't afford now she could always "put it aside" for me.

Initially I was all: "Oh no, that's okay, if it's gone by the time I come back then someone else obviously wanted it more", but by the time I left the shop I was: "thank you, I might take you up on that".

I did promise though, as a way of assuaging my guilt, I'd bring some stuff in next week to donate ('circle of life and all that').

Captain America... The Serial... Part Nine...

Friday, 21 May 2010

Fleamarket Friday: Support Your Local Charity Shops!

I know people moan about how charity shops there are in Tonbridge, and how they are replacing established businesses that have been forced to cease trading because of the current financial hard times, but the truth is, to a pack rat like myself, charity shops can be a gold mine.

I've already told you of my amazing strike this week at the Help The Aged store, well I've been back every day this week picking up more graphic novels and action figures. I had a bit of a windfall on eBay, which I transferred over to my bank account, to cover some of my spending and the rest has been justified by mental juggling and allocating funds that haven't arrived yet!

Since my last post, I've purchased a number of graphic novels (below) with prices ranging from £1.99 to £3.99 and the figures above - Black Adam, Sinestro and the Silver Age Superman and Lois Lane, which can be set up and suspended from the ceiling so that Superman is flying and carrying Lois.

As Rachel said, given that space is of a premium up in the gamesroom, that might be a useful new way of displaying my figures!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in my opinion, to be able to pick up these items from a shop on my doorstep. Over the decades comic shops and action figure shops have opened in Tunbridge Wells (my old home) and closed quite promptly because there simply wasn't the business.

We're not a university town or a major city, so we're never going to have a dedicated comic book store or a branch of Forbidden Planet, so the best prospect for finding these things is in charity shops.

My only previous success during the last two or three years had been a mint-on-card Doctor Doom I found in the British Heart Foundation shop, so this current - fast-disappearing - collection is an incredible find.

But I consider it karma; I regularly buy books from the various other charity shops in the High Street and have donated considerably more - from bags and boxes of comics, CDs, DVDs and books through to the majority of stuff left over in my parents' house when we cleared that after my father passed away and mum went into a residential home.

In a way it's the circle of life: you donate, you buy and both ways you're helping a good cause. And eventually your karma bank will build up enough credit that you'll get a windfall like this.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Eye See You!

It's hard to believe it's been two years since my last eye test, but Rachel suggested I go for a check-up after my recent bout of unexplained headaches - and it turns out my right eye has got slightly weaker.

As I like to be thorough when it comes to medical matters these days, I made sure I had another photograph taken of the insides of my eyeballs (see above), which could then be compared to the previous one.

Thankfully, everything is okay there and they're just the typical eyeballs of someone who is short sighted.

Because of the slight change in my prescription I've ordered a new pair of glasses; these new ones are quite similar to my current ones, but with magnets on either side so I can clip on magnetic sunglasses. These looked pretty cool in the shop, so I'm hoping they don't look too dorky in real life.

As the optician said: "When the sun comes out people coat their bodies in sun tan lotion to protect their skin, but often forget to protect their eyes".

So, on the off-chance we actually get some decent sun this summer, I shall be prepared.

Supernatural: Dark Side Of The Moon

Dark Side Of The Moon was undoubtedly one of the "trippiest" episode of Supernatural - starting, as it did, with Sam and Dean being killed by a couple of random Hunters for kick-starting the Apocalypse - but it was also rather disappointing.

Waking up, the brothers found themselves in Heaven, reliving key happy memories, and Cas managed to get a message to Dean telling him to "find The Garden and talk to Joshua", because the angel Joshua is said to communicate to God.

The show's version of Heaven was reasonably original, that everyone has their own personal Heaven and all these are connected, surrounding The Garden, and it was possible to find the centre of Heaven by following The Road - which appears as different things to different people, but to the Winchesters was two-lane asphalt.

Obviously, this was also a very cheap way of portraying Heaven on a TV show budget and certainly didn't contribute to the necessary suspension of disbelief.

Along their journey through treasured memories, the brothers met up with some old faces from their past - their mother (Samantha Smith), Ash from the Road House (Chad Lindberg) and psychic Pamela (Traci Dinwiddie) - but they were also being pursued by hostile angel Zachariah (Kurt Fuller), determined to bring them back into line and force Dean to open himself up to be Micheal's vessel for the war with Lucifer.

If you'll excuse the pun, this was a very middle of the road episode because, despite the horror as things in Heaven started to turn a bit nasty for the boys, there was no real threat because you always knew they were going to end up being sent back to Earth.

The twist, although honestly not that surprising either given the general tone of the series, came in the message Dean was given by God - via Joshua (Roger Aaron Brown), which left our heroes at the end of the episode, morale-wise, at their lowest point yet in the ongoing struggle against Satan and the demon hordes.

In many ways, Dark Side Of The Moon reminded me of the most recent episode of Doctor Who - Amy's Choice - in that the 'unreality' of the situation disconnected me as a viewer from the drama. Even Dean said - when the hunter was about to kill him - that he'd be back (although it was probably just bravado, we knew he was right as well).

Both Doctor Who and Supernatural had key points to make in their overarching storylines, but took rather unengaging and contrived routes to get there.

As always with episodes that involve angels, crucial elements of Supernatural's mythology were spelled out, complemented by the usual, subtle character work - such as the discussion between Dean and Pamela about what constituted Heaven and why it still wasn't a good idea for Dean to allow "Michael to take him for a test drive".

There were a few of the great moments we've come to expect from Supernatural, but overall this episode just didn't gel - I think there could have been other ways to get the all-important message across to Dean and Sam that wouldn't have necessitated a whole episode to do so.

Next episode:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The End Is Near...



Can't believe the end of Lost is so close. Two more weeks for us in the UK (two long, hard weeks of having to avoid Interwebz spoilers!).

This is a fan-made trailer for the grand finale that show creator Damon Lindelof loves - and you can see why.

Rachel and I have already agreed that when it's all over, we're going to hit the DVDs and start watching the whole thing from the beginning again.

I'm expecting answers to every single little piece of mystic minutiae, but a clear explanation of what's been going on would be nice. I just hope the ending is as epic as the story deserves and it doesn't go all Battlestar Galactica on us!

Setting The Zompocalypse To Guitar Music...



The zombie apocalypse as indie guitar pop - my kind of tunes!

This is Zombies by The Longwalls, whose MySpace page tells us their 2008 debut album Field Guide for the Zombie Survivalist, (which this track comes from) is "a cascading picture book of persons, places and things - living and undead – with cinematic songs about redheads, zombies, God, painkillers, good jobs and really bad ones".

The album's available as an iTunes download for £7.99 in the UK.

Thanks to Zombie Info for drawing this mighty fine track to my attention.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

MF GRIMM Sustains Nobility With New Single...

Just a quick reminder to HeroPress readers that the single I Am King is available for download from today (Tuesday).

MF GRIMM, an unrelenting presence in hip-hop (aka HeroPress follower Percy Carey), captivates once again with the release of I Am King, the single from the upcoming album/comic book, You Only Live Twice: The Audio Graphic Novel.

The Orchard will handle digital distribution of both the single, available from today, and the full album, available June 8.

TVT (Pitbull and Little John), The Orchard, and Traffic will handle physical distribution.

The project, being featured at prominent retailers in the US such as Best Buy, will also be distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors and available to all comic retailers. Twice will become the first musical project to be featured in Previews, Diamond’s esteemed publication (June issue).

For more information on MF GRIMM, visit daybydayent.com or follow Day By Day Entertainment on Twitter @daybydayenttv.

How My Geekgasm Will Help An Old Person...

A philanthropic collector of geek ephemera has generously donated a portion of his collection to the Help The Aged charity store in Tonbridge High Street - much to the delight of the town's underground geek collective.

I stumbled across this incredible haul on Monday, on one of my occasional charity shop tours (always on the hunt for the odd, rare gem), when I first noticed a John Constantine/Hellblazer action figure in the shop window and as I drew closer it dawned on that the entire window display was action figures, graphic novels and a few Doctor Who books.

Stepping inside I realised that the front portion of the shop had become an assemblage of carded DC Comics action figures and boxes of graphic novels to give your average Forbidden Planet a run for its money. There was also a shelf of further boxed action figures towards the back of the shop.

After a considerable amount of drool time I purchased a couple of JLA graphic novels that I didn't have (The Nail and Rock Of Ages).

The people manning the shop had clearly been doing their research because, not only were the graphic novels separated into boxes by publisher but, the action figures were not what you'd call usual charity shop prices. Although not overpriced, they were 'sensibly' priced to discourage casual purchasers (like small children and parents who might mistake them for "toys" - please read with tongue firmly wedged in cheek).

When I rang Rachel to tell her - the moment I got out the shop - she first wondered what was wrong, but then realising it was a "purchasing emergency" rather than anything more serious, she offered to give me some cash so I could buy myself a wedding anniversary present.

A week today is our third wedding anniversary and I gave Rachel some money last week towards her dolls house spendathon in London at the weekend, so last night she gave me an equal amount so I could return to the charity shop and buy more things.

Going back to the store today I learned that there had been a steady trickle of 20 and 30-something men spending way more cash than you'd usually expect people to in a charity shop on this stuff. For instance, I noticed the box of DC graphic novels from yesterday had disappeared completely and the kindly lady manning the shop counter told me someone had spent over £100 on graphic novels alone.

I picked up the collections of Flash and Green Lantern pieces (shown above) as my 'wedding anniversary' present and then snuck in a couple of 'bonus' action figures (after much deliberation) to pay for out of my own funds. Where else in Tonbridge am I going to find a Phantom Stranger action figure?

Just need to figure out where I can scrape together some more hard cash in the next day or so to 'invest' in more of these DC action figures before they've all been squirreled away by the rest of the town's very excited, middle-aged geeks.

On the charity side of the equation, the donor had 'gift aided' the books and figures, which meant that on top of the money we were handing over to Help The Aged for these goodies, the charity is able to get a proportional extra amount from the Government as well.
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