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

The Batman (2021)

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Superhero TV Titbits...

Although an exact date has yet to be revealed, the UK's Channel 5 has announced that Gotham will be resuming in March.

In other superhero TV news, in case you haven't heard, David Tennant - aka The Tenth Doctor - has been cast as Zebediah Killgrave ('The Purple Man') in the Netflix/Marvel collaboration A.K.A. Jessica Jones, which has Breaking Bad's Krysten Ritter in its lead role, alongside Mike Colter as Luke Cage.

Also named in the cast this week was Transformers, Charlie's Angels and Crisis star Rachael Taylor playing Patsy 'Trish' Walker, better known as Hellcat.

David Tennant will be The Purple Man in A.K.A. Jessica Jones

Here's a taste of things to come when(ever) Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns to Channel 4:

However, still no news as to when - and on what channel or streaming service - Agent Carter will be showing up on these shores.



Friday, 30 January 2015

Tales From Vault: The Flash # 179 - Fact Or Fiction? (May, 1968)

A Silver Age classic, The Flash #179: Fact Or Fiction? from May 1968 is notable for being the first time DC Comics used the idea (although unnamed) of Earth-Prime (or 'our' Earth) as a destination for superheroes.

The Flash - Barry Allen - is having problems with an energy beast, The Nok, that has escaped from the spaceship of alien beast-hunter (who'd landed on Earth to repair his ship).

The Nok appears to feed on Barry's "speed force" (again, it isn't called that) and ends up pushing The Flash to new velocities, which carry him to an alternate world: 'our' world, a world where his adventures are recorded in the pages of DC Comics and his secret identity is known by every small child!

People mistake him for a party-goer in fancy dress and he realises that the only person who will believe he is who he says he is is DC Comics Editor Julius Schwartz!

This is a wild story, from the mind of Cary Bates, as it had no precedent at the time. The only parallel world Barry (and the DC readers) knew of was Earth-2, where the Golden Age heroes hung out.

The Nok (pictured on the cover above), and the alien hunter, are rather bland Silver Age pulp sci-fi constructs, but the story itself really opened up a Multiverse of possibilities.

And, at the end of the tale, left Julius Schwartz with a working Cosmic Treadmill in his office! I wonder if that was ever revisted?

I picked up this landmark issue on eBay the other day for a couple of quid. It was just a random recommendation the site threw up for me and the cover caught my eye, so I Googled the story and couldn't believe this wasn't going for more. It's not a perfect copy - but the listing made that clear  - but it was still a bargain for such a key story in the history of DC's Multiverse.

The comic will now be going in a frame to hang in the gamesroom.

It could well be the oldest, original comic I currently own (being only couple of years younger than me!)

Josh Trank Talks Fantastic Four Trailer...

In this interesting experiment, director Josh Trank and writer Simon Kinberg talk us through the recent Fantastic Four trailer, confirming that they are taking their inspiration from the Ultimate Universe iteration of the characters.

And as to the support from Stan Lee: meaning no disrespect to Stan, but he's such a gentleman and diplomat that he says he likes everything!

A Peak Inside Grant Morrison's Head...

To coincide with this week's release of DC Comics' Multiversity Guidebook, Comics Alliance has run an interview with Grant Morrison about the cross-dimensional goings-on in his Multiversity series.

Over Five Minutes Of Clips From The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water...

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Avengers: Age Of Ultron - First TV Spot...

The ICONS Wiki Is Back...

The ICONS Wiki has risen from the grave thanks to site owner Bob Bretz and game designer Steve Kenson.

This is your fan-made one-stop shop for rules errata, house rules, gaming aids (such as character sheets), characters (including conversions of famous comic book characters to the rules-lite system) etc

Steve Kenson explains the whys and wherefores over on his blog.

Prepare Yourself For Coming Of The Army Of The Twelve Monkeys...

Don't Give Away The Milk, If You Want People To Buy The Cow...

Reading A Blog Entry on Feedly

Recently several of my online compadres have been bemoaning a decline in visitors (or 'hits') on their blogs.

While some of this can be blamed on an across-the-board decline in people reading blogs (because people are stupid!), I believe a lot can also be attributed to an increasing number of people devouring blog content via RSS readers (such as Feedly) - as shown in the picture above.

For instance, while I might read an article in Feedly unless I actually 'click through' to the site in question - say, to leave a comment - then that won't register as a 'hit' on that site.

However, there are is a very straight-forward way to encourage people using readers to 'click through' - namely don't allow the reader to show your full page.

A lot of news sites do this; the reader will show the first paragraph or so but for the rest of the article you need to actually visit the website.

HeroPress does this.

And it's really easy to set up for your blog as well (if you're using Google/Blogger, I have no idea about other playforms, although I suspect it won't be a too dissimilar process).

Go your Dashboard (as shown above), and click Settings. Then click Other (see below) and over in the list of options on the right-hand side - under Site Feed -  select the drop-down menu by Allow Blog Feed and chose how you'd like your blog to appear in readers.

The options include: Full (which shows everything) and Short (which is what I use as that only gives away a smidgen of your post in the RSS feed).

There are other options, which you can play around with once you're confident, but selecting Short is probably the best option if you're looking to entice people to read posts on your blog.

Don't forget, when you've finished, to click the all-important orange SAVE SETTINGS button in the top, right-hand corner of the Dashboard.

Obviously, I can't guarantee that this will result in a sudden upsurge in 'hits', but it can't hurt. I'm not in the slightest bit tech savvy, but even I managed to navigate the Blogger Dashboard to achieve this neat little trick.

There's probably more things you can do to draw attention to your blog without giving away all your  goodies for 'free' (ie without earning a 'hit'), even though I have yet to find them, but that's a start.

Supergirl Gets Her Jimmy Olsen...

Mehcad Brooks is Jimmy Olsen

Following the announcement of Glee's Melissa Benoist being cast as Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, the upcoming Supergirl TV show has found its Jimmy Olsen in True Blood's Mehcad Brooks.

According to the official DC Comics blog:
"Supergirl’s James Olsen is described as a photographer at CatCo, the media company where Kara  works. He has recently been living and working in National City, though the reason is still a secret."
CatCo I suspect is run by Cat Grant, right?

Big Hero 6 Finally Lands In The UK...

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Wednesday On Wednesday...

Wednesday takes a gig as a babysitter and teaches a young girl a valuable lesson.
Launched off the back of her successful crowdfunding campaign, Melissa Hunter returns with the second season of her Adult Wednesday Addams web series.

Supernatural: Slumber Party

Ding, dong, bitches!

The brothers Winchester are trying to rig up a system in the Men Of Letters' Batcave to track the fallen angels, but in the process unearth the bunker's supercomputer. Having no idea how it works they call in tech support - the form of Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day).

However, while doing all this they accidentally free a hunter, trapped magically since the 1930s, who turns out to be Dorothy (Tiio Horn) ... as in Wizard Of Oz Dorothy.

And she wasn't alone: she had imprisoned herself in a binding spell with the indestructible Wicked Witch Of The West (Maya Massar), who is now loose in the bunker and hunting a magical key to get herself back to Oz.

On paper, Slumber Party sounds quite groan-worthy. The Supernatural universe is quite firm, but can it stand being linked to the perceived fripperies of Oz?

As it happens, the episode wasn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been.

A bottle episode, set entirely within the confines of the bunker, Slumber Party had some snappy dialogue (as well as some clunkers), a few references to past episodes and some interesting ideas.

But I have to wonder - especially given the ending and the fact that I'm pretty certain Charlie is coming back - is Oz going to become a fixture of the Supernatural 'verse now or will it be swept under the carpet and forgotten like The Thule Society (from Everybody Hates Hitler)?

And if Oz is 'real', what about other public domain 'fantasy locations' - or fairy realms - such as Wonderland?

While the inciting incident of Slumber Party was very much part of the season's story arc, the rest of the episode felt rather like filler. Ultimately, its importance will only come to light later on if the doors this story opens are ever referenced again.

Next Time:

Are You Still Following The Following?

Share The Unisystem Love And Help The Fight Against Cancer...

It's been a while since I mentioned a Bundle Of Holding deal, but the current offer is for a vast haul of Unisystem books. And I love the Unisystem!

For a mere $10.95 investment, you get five Unisystem RPGs in as DRM-free, non-watermarked .PDF ebooks:
  • Conspiracy X 2.0 (retail $17.50): UFO conspiracy in the post-9/11 world. As an agent of Aegis, you're our best hope against the alien threat.
  • CJ Carella's WitchCraft (free): The magical Gifted have been persecuted for centuries. Now, join with your coven-mates to shape the modern world. WitchCraft was the first Unisystem game.
  • Armageddon: The End Times (retail price $15): The Apocalypse has arisen, but not the way anyone predicted. Play as an angel, a demon, or a mortal brave enough to challenge a god.
  • Ghosts of Albion (retail $5): Explore occult Victorian London in this complete RPG (widely regarded as the best version of the Cinematic Unisystem rules) inspired by the 2003 BBCi series co-created by Amber Benson and written by friend of HeroPress +Timothy Brannan .
  • Terra Primate: Savage adventure in a world where Man is the missing link.

Then, if you pay more than the threshold price - currently $22.46 - you'll also get four bonus supplements for Conspiracy X and WitchCraft:
  • CX2 Paranormal Sourcebook (retail $17.50): Alien vs. ghost - who wins? With your luck, you'll be squaring off against them both.
  • Extraterrestrials Sourcebook (retail $17.50): Planning a close encounter with alien invaders? This is the Conspiracy X sourcebook you need.
  • Mystery Codex (retail $11.50): New WitchCraft skills, powers, metaphysics, and, above all, vampires.
  • Abomination Codex (retail $8): More skills, powers, metaphysics, secret organizations, voodoo magic, and - because the vampires weren't enough - were-creatures.
 And the best thing about the deal, which is only running for just over another week, is that 10 per cent goes to the American Cancer Society.

Welcome To Riverdale: Episode Twelve...

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

January's Pictoral Phantasamagoria...

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Amy's Croakin' Comics...

Poor Amy Dallen is unwell, but being the trooper she is, she has used this opportunity to discuss 'comfort comics': some of her favourite comics to curl up with on a cold winter day.

DVD Of The Week: Batman - Assault on Arkham (2014)

Released last year as a kind of sequel to the Arkham Asylum video games, Batman: Assault On Arkham is primarily a Suicide Squad mission that has Amanda Waller sending a half-dozen villains into the infamous asylum to steal a thumb drive loaded with sensitive information.

The story is told largely from the villains' point-of-view with Batman being out of the picture for most of the first half of the film (he's off chasing a bomb that Joker has hidden somewhere in the city).

The by-the-numbers plot is enlivened by, of course, the scheming of Waller - who has an ulterior motive for sending her dirty half-dozen into the asylum - and the in-fighting of her crew, which counts Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis) and Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale) among its number.

Batman is voiced by fan-favourite Kevin Conroy, but the animated movie belongs to the antagonists as Bats is really there just as a foil to the their machinations. Even the 'clever ruse' he pulls on the Suicide Squad is painfully obvious, even if you're not looking for it.

However, things get even more messed up when, during the villains' raid, The Joker (Troy Baker) is set free, either accidentally or by design. This is wonderfully vague so we never really know what's going on in Harley Quinn's mind.

The animation has a jagged, faux anime, style to it that makes all the characters - bar Waller, of course - appear tall and gaunt, which I'm not a fan of, while it earns its 15 certificate with some graphic violence and suggested cartoon nudity and sex. This is, frankly, a bit odd and slightly immature in that giggling teens 'ooh, look what we've drawn' way.

The disc comes with some nice extras, including a quarter-of-an-hour documentary about the creation and growth of the Harley Quinn character.

This is the sort of feature we don't get enough of these days with comic book film Blu-Rays and DVDs; I'm always less interested in how the special effects of a movie were crafted than the history, and comic book roots, of the superheroes and supervillains involved.

We're also treated to a selection of fabulous old cartoons from Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice etc with plots pertinent to the Suicide Squad or The Joker.

Our First View Of Josh Trank's Fantastic Four...

There Can Be Only...

As a complement to the short documentary about archery that's setting the Internet alight, here's something for those who prefer a bit of sword fighting:

I'll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want...

As most of you are probably already aware Marvel Comics are heading towards a soft reboot via The Secret Wars event later this year that is said to smash together the main Marvel Universe with the Ultimate Universe and throw in a few alternate realities for good measure.

I think it goes without saying that on the other side of Secret Wars, most (if not all) of the Marvel titles will start again at issue one (please, no issue zero... it's meaningless!) - in a "we're not copying DC's New 52 initiative in any shape or form" kind of way. Because that's proved so popular!

Rather than fretting about the shape of this new Marvel Universe or what individual heroes (and villains) will be like, my only request is that once they've started numbering the titles to just let the numbers run and run and run. Don't keep stopping and starting with new number ones. It's annoying and rather ridiculous.

I'm of the old school that liked my comics to get their issue runs up into the hundreds, two hundreds, three hundreds etc. It adds a sense of history to the stories and, to a degree, respect that the company has faith in its titles.

If they're worried about new readers being put off from jumping onboard later in the run (as I believe is their justification for this stupid practice) just take a look at this month's Archie Comics' Sonic The Hedgehog (of all things) above: it's issue 268 (just think about that for a moment) but it's also - as shown in the top right corner - part one of a four-part storyline called Champions.

This isn't rocket science, people, it's telling your readers that this is a long-running comic and this particular issue is the start of a new storyline that will run for four issues.

I imagine the Sonic demographic is generally younger than an average Marvel comics reader and they seem to grasp this okay. So why does Marvel think its readers have such a problem with this concept?

Admittedly, Marvel has tried this in a slightly half-arsed way with its"point one" titles, but that just seems to be adding an unnecessary degree of complication to what should be the simple process of telling a potential customer that issue six comes after issue five. Is issue 5.1 really issue six, was there an issue five, will the next issue be six or seven?

Five years from now, I want my Marvel comics to have numbers in the 50s and 60s, in another five years I want to see them numbered in the low hundreds and so on.

Of all the things to muck around with on a comic, surely the numbering is the most straight forward. Start at issue one on day one and go up one number for every new issue!

Just look at the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #378 (part three of the 14-part Maximum Carnage story) from 1993. Marvel were doing it right then. So why is it so difficult now?

Monday, 26 January 2015

Musical Monday (Bonus): Guardians Of NYC...

Thanks to Jeremy Hawkins for pointing this out. The dancing and editing on this film is superb.

Four Covers...

There's a meme going round inviting people to share the four comic book covers that are most important to them, that helped fire their enthusiasm for comics and turned them from casual readers into collectors.

Here are mine:

FANTASTIC FOUR #17 - I've spoken about this title many times before on HeroPress. While I never read the original American edition (pictured above), my earliest memory of reading a superhero comic book story was a British reprint of this adventure (which kickstarted my lifelong love affair with The Fantastic Four).

This is the comic that truly showed me the infinite possibilities of superhero comics.

I have earlier memories of seeing American comic book covers, in an old spinner rack in a newsagents in a little seaside town where we used to holiday when I was a kid, but I can't remember if I actually picked any of them up. There was a Shazam/Marvel Family title, an issue of The Flash (I think he was fighting The Top on the cover) and a copy of Black Magic #1

BLACK MAGIC #1 - Now, I know for certain I didn't read this when I first saw it. In fact I only managed to find out what the comic was, and obtain a copy, a couple of years ago. But that front page burned itself into my - rather freaked out at the time - youthful mind, proving (if nothing else) the enduring power of the comic book image.

NEW TEEN TITANS #1 - I didn't become a bona fide comic book collector until, in my teenage years, I was visiting a book exchange in Tunbridge Wells and came across a stack of the Wolfman/Perez era New Teen Titans comics going for a song.

I picked them up, took them home, devoured them and wanted more, more, more. I was hooked. Garfield Logan aka Beast-Boy was my favourite character and, like him, I fell in love with the duplicitous Tara Markov (aka Terra) when she joined the team. Her death in Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 from 1984, remains the only comic that has ever made me cry.

ZOT! #1 - No one seems to talk about Zot! these days. Heck, I don't even talk about Zot! these days. But for my money it remains the single best run of any comic book I have read. As with many things I have no idea how I started reading it, I think it was at a time of my life where it seemed as though I was buying almost everything that came out every month. But Zot! always stood out from the rest.

It was intelligent, dramatic, gorgeously illustrated and highly original, managing to combine a lightness of style with dark moments.

Several years ago, Rachel bought me a collected edition of the entire run of Zot!, signed by the comic's creator Scott McCloud. That's how great a wife she is!

I suspect that my "desert island book" - if I was only allowed a single volume on that hypothetical island - would be that that volume of Zot!

Musical Monday: I'll Be Free (Theme Song From Mythica: A Quest For Heroes)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sunday Chin Scratcher: How Soon Is Too Soon?

One of the great assets for adding verisimilitude to contemporary roleplaying games (no matter if the genre is horror, superhero, espionage, urban fantasy etc) is a gamesmaster being able to draw upon current, real world, news events.

It's a recommended tool in the "how to be a GM" sections of many RPGs.

But you only have to look at the news these days to see there's an awful lot of very dark, evil things going on (as exemplified, in part, by the movement of The Doomsday Clock). And while the gamer in all of us has those undeniable flashes of "what if...", are you comfortable using anything in the news at the moment at your table?

In superhero or spy-fi games, for example, do you prefer the heroes to be dealing with fictional comic book organisations like A.I.M. and Hydra or are you happy for them to be facing tabletop analogues of real terrorist groups?

Expanding this thought experiment, for a moment, to wargames: how do you feel about gaming current conflicts? Do you see such games as honouring or trivialising these wars?

Is there an unspoken 'statute of limitations' on shocking real life events, after which it is acceptable to use them in games?

Raving About Raven...

Cosplayer Miss Rae as Raven from The Teen Titans.

Thanks to Cal, from Calvin's Canadian Cave Of Cool for first highlighting this cosplay of one of my favourite characters from one of my favourite teams (the Wolfman/Perez era of The Teen Tians).

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