Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Snowy, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Simians, and Silliness

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Demons: Smitten

I find myself cutting Demons a lot of slack because it is probably the closest we will ever get to a British Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Tonight's episode, Smitten, in particular, had a very Buffy flavour to it, with Luke, the last Van Helsing, falling for a new girl at college, who Galvin and co. reckon is really a shapechanging dragon-like creature called a Harpy who is after Luke's blood because a Van Helsing slew her two sisters in the 16th Century.

And the clever twist? She is! No big surprise. Using Scooby Doo logic, the new face on the block is the bad guy.

What shame. This episode could have been so much better if, after Luke stood up to Galvin and defended his new love, Alice (Laura Alkman), it had turned out she wasn't the murderous harpy... and it was a complete co-incidence that she had arrived in London at the same time as the beast.

But no, Howard Overman's script took the easy option and everything was neatly wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end when Luke succeeded in "smiting" the harpy and everything returned to normal.

Character-wise Alice would have made a good foil to Ruby, who didn't seem to have as much to do in this story as normal, if she had turned out not to be a half-life and had stayed around... but it was not to be.

Instead we had the recycled Buffy-dialogue about how it's impossible to have normal relationships in this particular line of work... boo hoo... blah, blah, blah...

On the positive side, Luke got to show off his Slayer... sorry, Smiter moves against a trio of civilians (including Clyde from The Sarah Jane Adventures) who were hassling Alice. I think is the first time - outside of Galvin's training sessions - we've actually had a chance to see Luke do his whole martial arts thing, because normally he just shoots monsters and they blow up.

That being said, his "Van Helsing reflexes" from They Bite haven't come into play again.

As always, Demons delivered on atmosphere and background - we're getting a good sense of how Galvin interacts with the half-lifes - but it fell short on story. At least this week's made sense, it just wasn't that original to anyone who'd watched more than two episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

What I would love, and is never going to happen, is for the writers of Demons to give up the pretense and just throw in something that ties their show to the Buffyverse; have Galvin talk about Rupert Giles or The Watchers, have Mina make a passing reference to Angel. I'm not asking for much; just a little bone, something to just to make my inner fanboy go "yes, I knew it" and punch the sky.

Book Of The Month: Legion Of Super-Heroes - 1,050 Years Of The Future

Legion Of Super-Heroes: 1,050 Years Of The Future is a celebration of 50 years of "everyone's favourite super-team of tomorrow".

The 224-page trade paperback from DC is a collection of Legion tales from throughout the team's five decade history - starting with the very first Legion story from 1958, by Otto Binder, where Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy and Saturn Girl travel back to the '50s to visit Superboy in Smallvile and induct him into their "super-hero club".

This started the Legion's first run, up until the mid-90s and DC's Zero Hour event, which reset continuity across its titles. The Legion then got a second reboot in 2005, when Mark Waid and Barry Kitson took over the title.

We follow the Legion through time, watching as artists and writers change, bringing new ideas on futuristic technology to the 30th Century; the Legion start off using clunky jet packs and fish-bowl space helmets and over the years we gradually see the introduction of the famous Legion flight rings and their 'transparent space suits'.

Highlights of this eclectic assemblage of tales include the issue 300 celebration, by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, and a host of guest artists, as Brainiac 5 explores the dreams of a mysterious patient who imagines alternate realities where the Legion's history has been tweaked to greater or lesser degrees.

There are also tales from Jim Shooter, who began writing the Legion at the ridiculously young age of 13 and is, once again, the current scribe on the series - although it is due to wrap up shortly.

Other tit-bits include a summary of the Legion Constituion, single panel profiles of the main members of the group and an overview of their headquarters.

The three different incarnations of the Legion (the original, those spawned by Zero Hour and the current) are, of course, also the stars of the superb Final Crisis tie-in Legion Of 3 Worlds, in the safe hands of Geoff Johns and George Perez.

Legion Of Super-Heroes: 1,050 Years Of The Future
doesn't feature any of these newer tales as the most recent run was still a going concern at the time, and all those adventures are available in separate trades, and Final Crisis hadn't even begun to rock the DC Universe when this collection was published last year.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Another Day...Another Watchmen Site...

As well as unveiling the final one-sheet promotional poster for Watchmen this week, Warner Bros. has updated the official Watchmen music website as well, which gives details of both the soundtrack and the score.

Just over 30 days to go...

DVD Of The Week: Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut (1980)

Growing up, before the likes of Tim Burton's Batman in 1989, Blade (1998) and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002) hit the big screen, Superman II was the definitive comic book superhero movie.

That knock-down, drag-out fight between Superman and the three Kryptonians on the streets of Metropolis/New York was the first superhero versus supervillain fight I'd seen in 'live action' and it looked just like they did in the comics - combatants flying left, right and centre; major property damage, the full works.

Until then - and even afterwards on TV - superheroes just tended to tussle with ordinary criminals (who may or may not have had some kinda freaky ray-gun) or mad scientists, time travellers and aliens who looked (and acted) like run-of-the-mill hoodlums.

Superman II finally gave me the chance to see a comic book clash of the titans brought to life, and it didn't disappoint...

That is until the final confrontation between the evil Kryptonians and Superman in his Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole.

Suddenly Superman had some random new power that allowed him to pull giant plastic logos off his chest that he could tangle the bad guys in. Even in the '80s, Superman fans were rubbing their heads and going: WTF?

Turns out behind-the-scenes hassles between director Richard Donner and the film studio meant a new director (Richard Lester) was brought in to rework the film to the studio's wishes.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge now and finally, a couple of years ago, Richard Donner was allowed to release his original version of the film (and the studio made all its money again as fans bought a second - or third - DVD of Superman II).

Donner's cut is certainly punchier than the cinema version and appears to hit all its beats with more confidence. There's additional background and set-up material. Extraneous moments have been excised and the movie is actually about 10 minutes shorter, but all the good will I had for it was blown out the water when the ending suddenly becomes a repeat of the ending of Superman.

Having defeated Zod (Terrence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran) by tricking them into giving up their powers, Superman then does the whole 'flying round the Earth backwards to reverse time' stunt that he did before.

It was cheesy once, but we let him get away with it because he's Superman and he was saving the woman he loved the only way he could think of.

To do it again is just lazy; almost as though no-one involved in the film could think of way of wrapping the story up satisfactorily. Sure it gets over the problem of Lois knowing his secret identity, but honestly, that was the best they could come up with?

They had over 30 years worth of comics at that stage to research how Superman had got out of this pickle before, but all they managed to do was recycle the gimmick from the first movie. I can almost now see why the studio took Donner off the project if that was the ending he presented them with.

I can live without the slapstick silliness and the super-tangly-plastic-logo-thingy power of Lester's cut, but at least the "amnesia kiss" that Superman gives Lois in his ending had a certain ring of originality about it.

Superman II will always be my favourite superhero movie from my youth, but I had nursed a naive hope that the 'definitive' director's cut might raise it to favourite superhero movie of all time. Instead it remains where it was in my nostalgia vault, an emblem of the early years of my love for the superhero genre.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Many Faces Of Lois Lane...

It's time for another HeroPress poll. From of all the live action Superman outings (television and film) who, in your opinion, has come closest to being the 'definitive' Lois Lane?

Erica Durrance from Smallville?

Kate Bosworth from Superman Returns?

Teri Hatcher from Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman?

Margot Kidder from the Christopher Reeve-era of Superman movies?

Phyllis Coates from Superman And The Mole-Men?

Noell Neill from the 1950s Superman serials?

Cast your votes - at the top of the right hand column of HeroPress - and let me know (via the 'comments section' below) why you chose who you chose.

I can tell you now, my vote goes to Margot Kidder - she was my first Lois Lane and I still have a soft spot for her in my jaded old heart, and it's her voice I hear when I read the comics.

Doctor Who: Warriors' Gate (1981)

E-Space Trilogy.

We've met the 'Creatures from The Black Lagoon' in Full Circle, vampires in State Of Decay and now the E-Space Trilogy concludes with wolfman-like Tharils in Warriors' Gate.

The Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) are still trying to find a way out of E-Space when the TARDIS becomes lodged in the void between E-Space and Normal (N-)Space, along with a bulk freighter with a hold full of Tharil slaves.

Once a dominant species, the time-sensitive, leonine Tharils are now reduced to being traded by humans as reluctant (but valuable) navigators for their hyperspace starships.

The two ships are all trapped in a shrinking, white void where the only feature is a medieval archway which leads into a dusty, web-coated dinning hall - complete with robotic guardians and 'magic' mirrors (which allow some people through into a different dimension).

The white void of this null-point (N-Space has positive co-ordinates, E-Space has negative co-ordinates, but the void has zero co-ordinates) bears a great resemblance to the set-up for superb Second Doctor story The Mind Robber and I wonder if there is any connection between the two?

Once you get your head around the awful, dated CSO/green screening, the misfiring moments of 'comedy' and the occasional trippy time jumps and temporal technobabble, Warriors' Gate stands up as a cerebral and surreal Doctor Who story - while allowing The Doctor and Romana to strike back against the evil of slavery (a plot point every viewer could understand).

This is a story without classic, obvious villains but instead has several parties with different objectives trying to cope in a strange environment. Even the slavers are too workman-like and jobsworth to be seen as wholly villainous (although their captain does go a bit mental right at the climax).

Warriors' Gate
is a strange ending for the E-Space Trilogy as superficially it is so unlike the previous two stories, but it's a thought-provoking departure point for Romana to leave the TARDIS crew, taking poor K-9 with her (who had suffered numerous injustices and breakdowns since John Nathan-Turner took the reins of the show anyway).

Adric is almost incidental to the story and barely registers, which is no bad thing.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Doctor Who: State Of Decay (1980)

E-Space Trilogy.

The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) are still trapped in E-Space and, seeking civilization, they direct the TARDIS to a planet which turns out to be home to only a village of serfs and the strange castle of their lords - The Three Who Rule.

Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) has stowed away on the TARDIS and sneaks off after The Doctor and Romana, ending up at the village after they have left and being taken in by headman and his wife.

The Doctor discovers that the Three Who Rule arrived on the planet a thousand years before in an explorer craft from Earth (now their castle), but have been transformed into immortal vampires by the great vampire which rests under the castle, and is about to awaken.

Despite the first two episodes having rather random, non-cliffhanger endings, Terrance Dicks' script is reasonably solid, bringing in a brilliant new element to Time Lord mythology (the Time Lords' legendary war with the giant vampire creatures, each of which had the power to drain an entire planet of its life force).

There are some great moments of comedy in State Of Decay but the story suffers because it seems uncertain whether to fully embrace its obvious Hammer influences or send them up.

State of Decay clearly aims to recapture the Gothic grandeur of an earlier (pre-John Nathan Turner) era of Doctor Who, but is sadly undermined by the campy overacting of the three antagonists (William Lindsay, Rachel Davies and Emrys James).

The Doctor's final victory over the "great vampire" is also rather easy and anti-climactic, but character-wise this is a cracking yarn with The Doctor and Romana's chemistry firing on all cylinders and Adric beginning to show the traits we grew to loathe: such as his voracious appetite and his willingness to side with the bad guys if it looked like they were winning (then claim it was a trick when they didn't).

Why I Love GAFDOZ!

Great miniatures like classical statues tell you stories when you look at them; the fine lines of the carvings conjuring up events and backgrounds for the subject matter that may or may not be accurate but nonetheless stir you and touch you in some way.

The Galactic Adventures in the Fourth Dimension of the Forbidden Zone (GAFDOZ) line of supersized, heroic 28mm figures from Killer B Games are such works of art.

Even if you hadn't previously been considering a Flash Gordon-inspired skirmish wargame or a role-playing game in Buck Roger's 25th Century, then a few moments spent admiring these figures will send your mind racing back to the Golden/Silver Age of comics, movie serials and sword & planet pulps.

I know I've banged on about these figures before, but they are so well sculpted and unique in their design that they deserve wider acknowledgement.

Heck, they deserve their own role-playing game (or a supplement to, say, Savage Worlds, at least), comic book series and animated TV show!

The other day I asked Killer B head honcho Craig Rowlings, who has created a wonderful mythology for his range which he has been teasing us with over the last year or so, about his plans for GAFDOZ in 2009.

He replied, on the GAFDOZ mailing list: "So far I have three new Protectorate Guard and a Protectorate Guard Sergeant waiting to be cast up, there is also the first two Star Patrol characters.

"I'm hoping to have most of the main crew of Star Patrol out by Christmas so that will be about 10 main characters.

"Also, the Lost Legion Troopers are planned this year as well as hopefully the Kappa and the Murphidian Miners.

"Whether I get the Arcticon Blizzard Nomads done this year is doubtful unless I win the Lottery. None of these new aliens feature on the GAFDOZ list on the website yet, as I don't know who exactly I will do next.

"The Collosus of Mars will probably be released last as he will be massive and will bankrupt me.

"2010 will see the release of figures from the Proton Rangers history: in particular the Revolt of the Hornet Men."

The minion figures (such the Protectorate Guard) are roughly 28mm from base to eye level, while the more heroic characters are generally around 36mm and the "super-soldiers" (such as The Lost Legion) are about 40mm.

When asked about the different sizes of the heroic figures, he said: "The Lost Legion were super soldiers and were all bigger than the average chap. I will be curbing the size of figures in future though as I know there is a disparity in size. The Murphidians and Kappa are diminutive chaps so won't cause any problems."

It's these hints and teases of a "bigger picture" that keep me hooked on the GAFDOZ line.

Sure I'd like all the figures to be available at once, but I realise that Killer B Games is a small miniatures manufacturer and such an approach makes very poor business sense - especially in these cash-strapped times.

But I would recommend anyone who loves the old science-fiction serials - in any format (TV, comic, film, book) - to visit The Galactic Adventures in the Fourth Dimension of the Forbidden Zone page on the Killer B Games website and show Craig some financial love by supporting this amazing range.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Week In Geek...

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

(1) Captain Archer Chucks It In: Scott Bakula, aka Star Trek: Enterprise's Captain Archer and Quantum Leap's Sam Beckett, will be playing Chuck's dad in several episodes of the popular geek/spy comedy series.

(2) Smallville's Hex Appeal: Supermodel Serinda Swan (pictured right) will appear in a forthcoming episode of Smallville, entitled Hex, playing the DC Universe's sexiest sorceress, Zatanna.

(3) Brubaker's Big Plans For Cap: Top writer Ed Brubaker promises fans a "big shock" in issue 50 of Captain America, and reveals his involvement with the forthcoming film.

(4) Spider-Man 4 Swings: Spider-Man 4 is to begin filming next year, with a May 2011 release date.

(6) Dr Horrible Sequel Not In Near Future: Captain Hammer himself, Nathan Fillion, says that he and writer Joss Whedon are both too busy with other projects at present to start work on a sequel to the hilarious Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog musical comedy.

(7) See History From Space: publishes satellite images of the crowds gathered in Washington for President Obama's Inuguration. Or see it here reproduced in Lego!

(8) Hobbits Weren't Human: Scientific study of the skulls of the small people found in Indonesia in 2003 - and nicknamed 'hobbits' - have led to claims that they were not human.

(9) Big Fish Man Lands Preacher Gig: Long-time Tim Burton collaborator, John August, whose work includes of Big Fish, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride, is to write the script for the film adaptation of Preacher.

(10) Oscar Nods For The Dark Knight: The Dark Knight has earned eight Oscar nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor one for the late Heath Ledger.

(11) Bionic Woman Joins 10th Doctor: Michelle Ryan will be appearing in Doctor Who alongside David Tennant in the 10th Doctor's next special: The Planet Of The Dead, which is due out at Easter. Comedian Lee Evans has also been added to the cast.

(12) Action Figures Ready To Beam Up: Check out the 12 inch, 6 inch and 3.75 inch action figures for the new Star Trek movie. The figures are due out in April.

(13) Survivors Gets Second Chance: The tedious Survivors has (somehow) earned a second season from the BBC. But remember the incredible improvements to Adrian Hodge's earlier work - Primeval - between the car crash telly of the first season and the genuine delight of the second season.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Doctor Who: Full Circle (1980)

E-Space Trilogy.

The E-Space Trilogy, part of Tom Baker's final season as The Doctor, begins with the Fourth Doctor and button-nosed cutie Romana (Lalla Ward) being summoned back to Gallifrey, only for the TARDIS to fall through a rare spacial phenonenom known as a Charged Vacuum Emboitement (CVE) into Exo-Space (a dimension outside our own space).

Unknowingly they land on a planet with the same relative co-ordinates as Gallifrey, only it's a wooded planet called Alzarius.

Near the TARDIS exists a rural community which has grown up against a crashed Starliner. The inhabitants of the community are the descendants of the Starliner's crew and passengers and have been struggling, for generations, to ready the ship for take-off.

Unfortunately, periodically they are driven into hiding by an event called Mistfall, which preceeds the rise of Marsh People (who bear more than a passing resemblance to The Creature From The Black Lagoon) from the swamps .

The Doctor and Romana arrive just as Mistfall has begun and meets Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), a young man from the Starliner who is trying to join his brother's teenage gang, the Outlers.

The Marsh People arise from the waters (evoking memories of The Sea Devils), K-9 gets decapitated, Romana gets bitten by a spider, the Outlers accidentally steal the TARDIS, the Doctor accidentally lets the Marsh People into the Starliner... this is one of the those stories where a momentary lapse of concentration can result in some frantic rewinding of the DVD to see what you've missed.

The story of Full Circle whips along with the pace of an episode of the new Doctor Who, and has inventive plot twists and turns that you can overlook the cheapness of the Marsh People's costumes and enjoy the tale for its comments on evolution, bureaucracy, the dissemination of information, politics and morality.

Written by 19-year-old fan Andrew Smith, Full Circle is peppered with nods to continuity and is gifted with a surprising level of intelligence and emotion sometimes missing from Doctor Who stories written by older hands.

Even Waterhouse's Adric is almost likable in this yarn.

Doctor Who: The Seeds Of Death (1969)

It's the late 21st Century and the Earth has become overly dependent on a new, experimental transportation system - the T-Mat, a form of instant transfer from one place to another controlled from a hub on the Moon.

Unfortunately this means that when the moon base is invaded by the Ice Warriors from Mars and the T-Mat is knocked out, Earth's supply network grinds to a halt.

At the same time as the Ice Warriors arrive on the Moon, The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Zoe (Wendy Padbury) arrive - in the TARDIS - on Earth, in the private museum of the last remaining rocket scientist... the only man left with the technical know-how (and home-made rocket) to get people to the moon to repair the T-Mat.

Given that this story was first transmitted in early 1969, and man didn't walk on the moon until July of that year, The Seeds Of Death is remarkably prophetic in its assumption that by the 21st Century man would have lost interest in launching rockets to the moon.

The story moves along at a brisk pace, but there is no escaping the fact that this is really a four episode story padded out to six (it lasts a daunting 145 minutes), thanks, in part, to a lot of running up and down corridors and crawling through air ducts.

The Ice Warriors don't want control of the T-Mat to beam themselves to Earth, rather they want to send seed pods, which explode on contact with Earth's atmosphere and release a foamy fungus which gradually reduces the oxygen content of the planet - rendering it uninhabitable to humans.

Brian Hayles' script (with assistance from script editor Terrance Dicks) is an intelligent story about man's habit of embracing the latest new gadget to come along and forgetting about the benefits of older technologies.

The production values on this story are good, if not great, and the Ice Warriors make formidable foes, even if their foot soldiers (who all have severe respiratory issues) are not the most nimble or observant of creatures - at least they're invulnerable to gunfire!

The idea of turning mankind's latest invention back against us, as a method of ravaging the Earth and making it ready for invasion is very smart. It's no wonder we never saw the T-Mat system in operation again - it was too vulnerable to sabotage and too expensive.

Lance Parkin speculates at length in his AHistory about the demise of T-Mat as a form of mass transport in the Whoniverse (although Star Trek-like transporters still appear in occasional stories), and it pretty much boils down to finances and reliability.

Patrick Troughton doesn't appear in the fourth episode of The Seeds Of Death at all (he was on holiday!); The Doctor has been rendered unconscious by one of the exploding seed pods and director Michael Ferguson does his best to ensure that we don't see The Doctor's face too much throughout this episode as a stand-in was used. Can you imagine that happening in Doctor Who today?

Kung Hei Fat Choi! 农历新年!

Happy Chinese New Year to those who celebrate such things.

Welcome to the Year Of The Ox ( 牛). This runs until February 14, 2010, when the Year Of The Tiger begins.

According to Wikipedia: "The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint."

Worth noting that U.S. President Barack Obama, born 1961, is an Ox!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Once I was LOST, Now I Am Found...

The Fifth Season of Lost begins tonight at 9pm on Sky 1 and Rachel and I are well excited. Let's hope, with only this season and one more to go, we start to get some understandable answers.

We're also getting answers in the final season of Battlestar Galactica, also on Sky 1, which began on Tuesday (such as the identity of the Final Cyclon). But that doesn't mean to say I'm much clearer on what the frak is going on! I'm beginning to suspect they're ALL cyclons!

The geeky goodness continues on Sky 1 on Mondays with Day Seven of 24 as Jack's antics get more frenetic and far-fetched. Each episode is an adrenalin-shot to the heart though (à la Pulp Fiction) and compulsive viewing, although you still get the impression that at least half the time they are making it up as they go along.

Saturday's sees the only British entry in my "must watch geek TV" weekly schedule: Demons. It's not great, but it goes some way to filling that Buffy-shaped hole in my life, now that the Slayer is no longer on our screens.

And finally, the lovely, brilliant, sweet and funny Pushing Daisies returns to ITV this Friday for its second (and sadly) final season.

All in all, that makes for a good week of "must see" television - pretty much an hour a day - without dominating everything else, and leaving plenty of room to experiment with any new programmes and documentaries that catch my eye.

At least it should keep me going until Easter, when we have the next Doctor Who special to look forward to.

Top Of The Pile: Doctor Who - The Forgotten #5

This excellent mini-series, The Forgotten, is drawing to a close and this penultimate issue sees The Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones still trapped in the mysterious museum devoted to his life, reliving his regenerations in chronological order under the watchful eye of a mysterious, bearded villain.

Issue five brings us up-to-date with tales from his two most recent regenerations.

The Eighth Doctor is imprisoned with a member of an alien race last seen in Utopia, while trying to retrieve the Great Key Of Rassilon, a crucial part of the Demat Gun (the McGuffin from The Invasion Of Time); while the Ninth Doctor takes Rose to the trenches of World War One on Christmas Day so he can referee the famous football match between the British and German troops.

I adored this latter story in particular because it was a fun, jolly yet poignant, yarn about The Doctor exposing Rose to more of Earth's history.

There's also a couple of nice throwaway lines about a Captain Harkness being in hospital - having survived a bullet to the head - and how "annoyed" he'll be that he missed the visitors to the front line and the football game.

That, of course, is a reference to Captain Jack Harkness - mainstay of Torchwood and future, frequent flyer in the TARDIS.

Meanwhile, back in the main plot, The Doctor not only figures out who 'Martha' really is, but also - on the last page - finally confronts the behind-the-scenes mastermind who plans to steal his remaining lives for himself.

Tony Lee managed to genuinely surprise me with this twist; it explains how the unseen antagonist knows so much about Time Lords and The Doctor, in particular, and while I wouldn't have taken this route with "my" version of The Doctor, it's still a stroke of genius.

We'll now have to wait and see how things pan out in the final part of this series and if there's any hope of redemption for the recently unveiled "bad guy", and whether I decide to accept the story as canon or apocryphal.

Either way, The Forgotten's still been the best Doctor Who comic series I have read to date.

I Kissed A Girl...

The oddities blog Oddee strikes again with this collection of "hilarious church signs".

Sometimes I wonder if there are segments of the United States where they take their religion a bit too seriously... or maybe not seriously enough!

Your Captain Needs You!

Despite what some of you may have heard on the ever-reliable gossip grapevine that is the Internet, Captain Britain And MI13 has not been cancelled - but it does need your support.

Mark Roberts, over on the It Came From Darkmoor blog (which concentrates on the "British corner of the Marvel Comics Universe") has written a very eloquent article, a "call to arms" for people to rally round this excellent title and give it the backing it deserves: to make sure it doesn't really get axed at any stage.

He writes: "Captain Britain & MI13 has always stuck to its release schedule without fail. The writing and art has been consistently brilliant throughout its run. Paul Cornell' s continuing stream of great ideas and strong character interaction is a joy to read, and Leonard Kirk's incredibly expressive artwork conveys every emotion, every thought process, every crazy scene and concept to the letter. It's not had a weak issue to date and it deserves far more attention than it's been getting these past few months."

I mean, come one, look at the advert for the next story arc above - it's got Dracula and Doctor Doom... on the Moon! If that doesn't make you want to run out and buy the next issue, then all hope is lost for mankind.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Demons: Suckers

Given that Demons is about the last of the Van Helsings, it was inevitable that our heroes would eventually find themselves tackling some neck-biters.

Once you get over the trite title, Suckers is the strongest episode to date, but still falls short in some serious areas of credability.

A quarter of an hour in and we finally have confirmed our suspicions that Mina is the Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula, but subsequently Ruby discovers that new vamp-in-town Quincey (Ciaran McMenamin) is also a character from the book as well.

Like Supernatural, Demons has put its own spin on this archetypal undead. However, Lucy Watkins' script rewrites vampire lore so that "only a vampire can kill a vampire", which leads to some dreadfully contrived technobabble about obtaining some of Quincey's "dead DNA", somehow charging it with electricity to "bring it back to life", then coating a bullet with it, so that when he is shot he is "infected" by his own "living DNA", loses his vampiric traits and ages to his correct age... and dies!

No, I couldn't really get my head round it either.

What I also couldn't quite understand is why when Galvin and Luke are off trying to obtain a sample of Quincey's DNA from the abandoned factory he is lodging in, they send Ruby - who has no Slayer-type skills - to trail the vampire! Naturally he spots her and corners her in a seedy bar and proceeds to... chat to her about what it's like to be a vampire.

There was a great story buried somewhere in the depths of Suckers, under layer upon layer of desperate contrivance not to be just another Buffy clone - when it would have played much better if they'd stuck to stereotypical vampire tropes and let the story, and the strong Dracula connection, carry the day.

Also, the plot's obsession with Quincey meant that his sidekick (the Dru to his Spike, in Buffy terms), Anika (Katrine de Candole) is forgotten about after the climatic confrontation - although she was only "slowed down" by Galvin's stake through the heart. And their "ghoul" (in the World of Darkness sense), Zippy the aged punk (Peter G Reed) with a detachable head, disappears completely from the third act.

Top Of The Pile: Green Lantern Corps #32

While running the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I still can't believe how long it has taken for me to finally embrace the glorious mythology of the Green Lantern Corps.

I've always been aware of the Lanterns and their Corps, but for some reason had thought the idea of a ring that can create solid constructs that resemble whatever the character wants or needs was a bit "silly".

How wrong was I?

I have been catching up on the Green Lantern Corps this week (up to issue 32), in a storyline called Sins Of The Star Sapphire, which involves an evil, baby-stealing creature called Kryb, who is trying to snatch the newborn babies of Green Lanterns.

It's a wild ride, with some dazzling, mind-blowing imagery that completely blasts my old prejudices and pre-conceived ideas to pieces, and a plot by Peter J Tomasi that - as a newcomer to this whole area of the DC Universe - made me feel I just to hang on for dear life and go along for the ride.

While Kryb was fighting a couple of Green Lanterns above a planet, on the surface a female alien Green Lantern was giving birth while at the centre of the Universe, the Guardians were issuing a Daconian decree (spurred on by the fact that enemies of the Corps were attacking Lanterns' loved ones) that "physical relationships and love between members of the Green Lantern Corps is fordbidden from this moment forth".

There is a wonderful scene on the penultimate page of this issue, in response to this decree, of hundreds of rings flying back to Oa as Green Lanterns quit the Corps in droves.

This is clever, powerful stuff and - with the aid of new LanternCast podcast - I am starting to find my way about in this overwhelming, yet fascinating and exciting, and constantly evolving mythos.

And I'm only just beginning to wrap my head around the different colour Lanterns and their particular areas of power...

PMikey explained it to me over on The Midnight's Lair Forums, so I present to readers of HeroPress, his quick guide to the various Lanterns, and their backers:

* The Green Lanterns are fuelled by Willpower. Backed by The Guardians.
* The Yellow Lanterns are fuelled by Fear. Backed by Sinestro & Parrallax.
* The Red Lanterns are fuelled by Rage. Backed by Atrocitus and...?
* The Violet Lanterns (the Star Sapphires) are fuelled by Love. Backed by The Zamorans.
* The Blue Lanterns are fuelled by Hope. Backed by Ganthet & Sayd; outcast Guardians.
* The Orange Lanterns are fuelled by Avarice. Backed by The Controllers.
* The Indigo Lanterns are fuelled by Compassion and have not yet been introduced.
* The Black Lanterns are fuelled by Death and are tied into the Green Lantern villain Black Hand.

The Crafty Doctor...

As part of her on-going campaign to educate me (and the world) in the more sedate aspects of life, Clare - who can be pretty handy with a needle and thread herself - has sent me details of couple of Doctor Who-related craft items that I'd like to share with you.

The Tardis Tissue Box Cozy is a neat idea for hiding a tissue box in a denim TARDIS.

Every home should have one ... and if you follow the instructions on the webpage you can "easily" knock one up.

Meanwhile Craft has guides to knitting your own Doctor Who (Tom Baker) Scarf, as well as a link to a site dedicated just to replicating Tom Baker's various Fourth Doctor scarves.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Top Of The Pile: Secret Invasion - War Of Kings

To be honest I was quite sick to death of the whole, disappointing Secret Invasion nonsense and wasn't going to bother with this title until Andy at Paradox pointed out that it was written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and would tie-in with their Guardians Of The Galaxy title.

This one-shot - which sets the scene for the forthcoming War Of Kings mini-series - centres of the Inhumans, the race of genetically engineered humans who live on the Moon in the Marvel Universe.

They were engineered by an alien race called the Kree, blood enemies of the shapeshifting Skrulls (who were responsible for the recent 'invasion' of Earth), and so the Skrulls weren't exactly kind to the Inhumans during their attack on our planet (including capturing and torturing the Inhuman's king, Black Bolt, in an attempt to turn his sonic power into a weapon of mass destruction).

With the Skrulls now fleeing Earth, the Inhumans launch their city into space and go in pursuit, but they are actually taking their new-found desire for war back to their creators - the Kree.

This is a beautifully illustrated (Paul Pelletier and Bong Dazo on pencils, Rick Magyar and Joe Pimentel on inks and Wil Quintana and Mike Kelleher on colours) story that ticks all the right boxes for me - space battles, aliens, backstory, cosmic-scale powers... and I've come to expect nothing less from the team of Abnett and Lanning.

The tie-in to the Secret Invasion is really just the launch pad, as this story will (presumably) unfold on a stage far removed from the tedium of Marvel's Earth-bound Dark Reign plot which is polluting many of their non-cosmic titles.

DVD Of The Week: Hulk Vs (2009)

Marvel Animation's first feature of 2009 is this neat double-bill of Hulk slugfests featuring Hulk Vs Wolverine and Hulk Vs Thor.

...Vs Wolverine: The Hulk might get top billing, but this 37 minute cartoon is a Wolverine story.

The jolly green giant has been rampaging across Canada and the country's Department H send Wolverine in to track and stop the creature.

However, once Wolverine comes across the Hulk - in the form of Bruce Banner - both fall foul of the wicked Weapon X, the evil scientists who 'created' Wolverine in the first place (this is explored in flashbacks), and their team of villains: Sabretooth, Deadpool, Lady Deathstrike and Omega Red.

Having captured the Hulk, Weapon X plan to turn him into a brain-washed killing machine; however the mad scientists didn't reckon on the personal vendettas that several of their superpowered enforcers have against Wolverine screwing things up.

Wolverine breaks free and blood-splattered hilarity ensues right through to the post-credits denouement.

I guess if you've got Wolverine - and his snikt-snikt metal claws - there's going to be some violence and bloodshed, but I was surprised by quite how much there was in this cartoon. It's not particularly gory (although Deadpool gets sliced and the Hulk pulls someone else's arms off), but this certainly isn't your typical, tame Saturday morning cartoon.

Stand-out voice performances from Nolan North as Deadool, really capturing the Merc With A Mouth's madness, and Steven Blum as a gravel-voice Wolverine help make this a very good addition to Marvel's growing animation portfolio.

... Vs Thor: Every year Odin The All-Father rests for a week and during this time Asgard is vulnerable to attack. Loki, God Of Mischief, summons Bruce Banner from Midgard (ie. Earth), with the aid of Amora The Enchantress, separates Banner from the Hulk and then takes control of the Hulk as an instrument of revenge against his step-brother Thor.

Unfortunately, the bond between controller and meat puppet is broken and the Hulk begins to run amok in Asgard.

Loki has already slain Banner - and so Thor and Loki have to team-up and travel to the Afterlife, confront Hela, Goddess of The Underworld, and rescue Bruce Banner's soul, so he can be reunited with the Hulk.

Christopher Yost's script blends the large-scale excitement and thrills of the Hulk let loose in a world of gods and godlings with the very human tragedy of Banner's situation - the moment Banner is wrenched away from his idyllic, illusory 'afterlife' with Betty Ross (his lost love) and his son is heart-breaking and illustrates clearly that the Hulk isn't just a one-dimensional demolition machine.

Visually, this is a stunning cartoon as well, from the fight scenes with frost giants, trolls, Valkyries, dark elves, and sundry Asgardian residents (from the Warriors Three to Balder and Sif) to the striking architecture of Asgard itself.

This is not the new-look Asgard of J Michael Straczynski's current run on the comic book title, but the old Jack Kirby-designed Asgard floating off in some bizarre, other-dimensional space.

Of the two Hulk Vs cartoons, I'd say the 45-minute Hulk Vs Thor was the better as it has a more epic, multi-layered script, but both features deliver on the action front and neither will leave comic book fans disappointed.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

"Ten Years With Dr Manhattan"

NBS Nightly News with Ted Philips, March 11th 1970 - the latest faux documentary from Warner Brothers, as part of their massive Watchmen campaign.

Press Release: Uncover The Conspiracy of Invisible, Inc.

They know the secret identities. They hold great power with no responsibilities. They are watching the watchmen. They are Invisible, Inc., secret rulers of the world.

Invisible, Inc. is the collaborative product of writer Brendan McGinley (Hannibal Goes to Rome, Dose) and artist Tomás Aira (Starcraft, Marilith).

Bankshot Comics' all-new web series follows Vera Bell, a reporter with the New York Herald, as she uncovers the ultimate conspiracy; a gathering of power manipulates the world, keeping heroes from effecting real change.

In the powerful "Yellow Journalism" arc, Bell discovers supervillains no longer try to take over the world because they succeeded decades ago. She pursues the mysterious Yellow Book, which can alter memories and perceptions, in her quest to expose its owners.

Aiding Bell's search for the truth is the questionable Mr. Twist. As the reporter follows the story, Twist gathers superpowers to strike at media king and crime lord Victor Fox. Stalking all parties is the mysterious Blackbird. It all builds to one terrible revelation that will have readers gasping, unable to accept the horrible truth before them.

The first, complete issue of Invisible, Inc. is online at

A new page posts every Monday.

((This is the first press release I have received at HeroPress, so am publishing it verbatim because it makes me feel as though I've "made it"))

My Life And Roleplaying: Itchin' For A Fix...

My life may revolve around comic books, science-fiction serials and action movies, but the best conduit I've found to make me feel as though I am part of the adventure - or, more specifically, create my own - is this glorious hobby of role-playing games.

Since I discovered them - through Dungeons & Dragons - in the late '70s, I just haven't been able to get enough and many activities and other forms of entertainment are still viewed through the "how would this work in a role-playing game" filter.

Old school role-playing advocate James Maliszewski, over on his erudite Grognadia blog wrote the following about gaming frequency (I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him extensively, but he put it much better than I would have):

"One of my growing beliefs is that, for old school gaming to work, you need to play not only consistently but also regularly.

"I'd venture to guess that one of the big reasons why old school play isn't as popular as it once was is because gamers meet a lot less often than they used to and because they don't stick with a single campaign -- or game! -- long enough to let it find its feet and properly establish itself.

"With very few exceptions, the best campaigns I've ever participated in, either back in the day or more recently, were ones where we played weekly (as close to it) without fail.

" Anything less and you quickly lose the 'thread' from which an old school campaign is spun and you might as well be playing a board or video game."

And that's my only problem with our monthly Tuesday Knights gaming sessions... they're monthly!

In our five sessions to date, the heroes have just about managed to clear a souped-up version of the basic dungeon from the original blue-covered Dungeons & Dragons rulebook. Something I'd thought would take them two sessions max...

Of course, after pizzas, we only actually game for about two-and-a-half to three hours each session; but that's fine for me (and everyone else it seems).

As I sadly found out last year - despite my massive enthusiasm - I no longer have the stamina (or concentration) for longer gaming sessions, which is why my participation in Simon's excellent Buffy The Vampire Slayer campaign had to be curtailed after only a few sessions. As much as I enjoyed gaming with Mik, Andy and Simon, my health just wasn't up to the half-day games they enjoyed.

So, while Nick, Steve, Pete and I used to game whole days away in our teenage years, now Steve and Pete are family men (Pete has a young baby to look after with his wife, Jeni), which means they don't have the time to spare for this hobby as they once they did.

And the problem with increasing the frequency of the game is that Steve also has a very demanding job (and he lives in a different county to the rest of us, so has a long drive to get here) that means he probably can't commit to too many more sessions a year... and Nick and Clare have a wedding to plan!

Pete has even said, when I've met him in town, that he would be up for more frequent gaming get-togethers, but the problem is "real life" and scheduling conflicts.

So what's the solution to scratching my face-to-face, tabletop role-playing itch? I'm toying with the idea of a "back-up" game that would require less players (but extras could be slotted in as and when needed), but that almost certainly relies on Cubicle 7 publishing its Doctor Who Role-Playing Game.

Without me winning the lottery (and spreading my winnings around so none of the others needed to work again) or inventing a time machine to take us back to being teenagers or twentysomethings, I can't see a way out of this pickle.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

New "In Your Face" Watchmen TV Spot!

Making up for lost time, Warner Brothers are saturating us with beautiful imagery from Watchmen - just drool over this latest 30 second TV spot.

(film clip from Trailer Addict)

The Dunwich Horror Goes Live...

(film clip from Dread Central)

One of HP Lovecraft's more pulpy tales, The Dunwich Horror, is due to hit the big screen (or more likely DVD over here) in a new adaptation featuring Jeffrey Combs and Dean Stockwell (who also appeared in the 1970 version). IMDB has the release date as February 23.

The story is, of course, already a successful audio play thanks to the HP Lovecraft Historical Society.

Death And Carnage On The Streets Of Portown!

Last night's gaming session was something slightly unusual for The Tuesday Knights - rather than the typical dungeon crawl that has so far characterised the group's adventures, this time "the dungeon" came to them.

After our usual diet of pizza and cake, the first order of business was for all the players to "level up", as they had made second level with the combination of earned experience from their last adventure and a "year end" bonus.

Then it was down to the main event. Before they could even think of heading back to the dungeons (for a final sweep and clear-out) they were woken - in their tavern beds - in the early hours of the morning by the town alarm as the pirates (who they tussled with a couple of games ago) were raiding Portown from their ship, while almost simultaneously a goblin mercenary gang from the dungeon (who the group had hacked off in their last delve by taunting them with the head of a giant spider left outside their lair) came down the trackway from the old town on the cliff tops.

Our heroes, pretty much single-handedly, took on the defence of the town and the remainder of the evening was taken up with a mighty battle, which is recounted in great detail over at The Chronicles of Tekralh.

The end result: 14 dead pirates, 11 dead goblins, Lemunda The Lovely (the sexy NPC fighter the group had liberated from the pirates' grasp in the dungeons, pictured left) was dead - from a massive, bleeding stomach wound, and Feng Ying (Nick's gnomish monk) battered to near death and taken by the pirates (probably to be sold into slavery).

It was a stunning engagement, almost a freeform wargame, with flowing descriptions of brutal combat, great use of 'Hero Points' by both the players and Elean (the barbarian pirate queen, who would have certainly fallen had she not had a small supply of Hero Points to burn off to reduce the massive damage she was taking), some meaty critical hit results and a mounting pile of figures on their sides and backs as our heroes hacked and slashed left, right and centre.

I think I was more upset than the players at Lemunda's death as I had great plans for her to become either someone's protégée or love interest.

Meanwhile, using a modified version of what I had read were the Dungeons & Dragons 4e rules for characters on "minus" hit points Nick managed to keep his character alive (if not conscious) long enough for the pirates to make off with his body.

He's still alive (probably), but no one knows where! Nick will need a new character for our next session in a month's time.

Speaking of future games, Steve unveiled his plan for our forthcoming Villains & Vigilantes game: Ultimate V&V!

He's tasked me with coming up with new origins - in the style of Marvel's Ultimate imprint - for our old characters... which, of course, means the appearance of The Ultimate Acrobatic Flea!

As you can imagination, I was grinning from ear-to-ear at this suggestion, although slightly daunted by the responsibility resting on my shoulders of putting a 21st Century shine on our old characters (Pete's Hurricane, Nick's Nick Law and, presumably, Steve's Silver Fist).

Clare will have the delight of creating a random superhero - based on herself - using V&V's excellent character creation system.

Steve pointed out that he still had the random powers tables memorized from when he used to run the game for us a couple of decades ago!

As much as I enjoy my Castles & Crusades campaign, it's going to be so awesome to pull on the virtual Lycra again, bounce around and blast some bad dudes with orange and black-speckled energy beams from my fists.

And I got the impression that everyone else was equally jazzed about Steve's idea to simultaneously revive and reinvent our old campaign.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Week In Geek (Inauguration Day Special)...

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

(1) Watchmen Lawsuit Settled: It's full steam ahead for a March 6 opening of Watchmen as feuding film companies Fox and Warners reach a resolution over the disputed film.

(2) The Prisoner's Final Escape: The legendary Patrick McGoohan, creator, writer and star of The Prisoner has died, aged 80.

(3) KHHHHAAAAANNN!: Actor Ricardo Montalban, possibly best known as Khan the titular star of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, has passed away, aged 88. Other geek films he appeared in included Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, as well as television's Fantasy Island.

(4) Captain Jack Does Comics: John Barrowman aka Captain Jack Harkness is to pen the comic strip (Captain Jack and the Selkie) in the next issue of the Torchwood Magazine, with the assistance of his sister, Carole E. Barrowman. Torchwood Magazine issue 14 will be on sale in the UK and Ireland on February 19, and in the US and Canada on March 17.

(5) Pooh's Back: The first authorised sequel to the story of Winnie The Pooh is being published this October. Entitled Return To The Hundred Acre Wood, it is written by David Benedictus, an established expert on the stories of A.A. Milne.

(6) Live-Action Mars Action: The 2012 John Carter of Mars movie will be live-action, not animated, says Andrew Stanton, who directed the beautiful (but dull) WALL-E.

(7) Come With Me If Want To Live... Maybe: Depending on the success of McG's Terminator: Salvation (the first part of a proposed trilogy) later this year, rumour has it that Linda Hamilton may return to the role that made her name, that of Sarah Connor (mother of resistance leader John Connor).

(8) Doctor's New Assistant Could Be Bionic: Superhot Michelle Ryan, so good in EastEnders and so wooden in The Bionic Woman and Merlin, is the current media favourite to be the 11th Doctor's companion in the next full season of Doctor Who. But let's remember how accurate the press were predicting who the new Doctor would be! Also note that the Telegraph calls Freema Agyemen the current assistant... which just shows how 'in touch' with Doctor Who they are!

(9) Daisies May Rise In The Cinema: The delightful Pushing Daisies may have been axed (foolishly), but now there's talk of continuing the tale of the Piemaker in movie or comic book format.

(10) Tuesday Knights Ride Again: After a lengthier-than-planned seasonal break, The Tuesday Knights are due to meet again tonight to resume my homebrewed Castles & Crusades campaign, Tekralh.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Original Watchmen Merchandise...

With the world now poised for a flood of Watchmen-related spin-off products, ahead of the March 6 release of Zack Snyder's movie, I decided to rummage through my minimal back catalogue of tie-in tat that came out with the original comic books back in the mid to late-'80s.

From 1987, we have the rather obvious - but still kinda cool in a retro sort of way - Watchmen watch. A pair of green hands on the iconic blood-splattered happy face, with a rubber wrist strap. Sadly no longer working, but I might take it to a repair shop in town to see if they can get it running again so I can wear it to see the movie! Probably just needs a new battery.

Then we have the obligatory reproduction of the Comedian's badge - an image the general public are probably going to get to know quite well over the next month or so as Warners ramp up their multi-million dollar promotion campaign for Watchmen.

The Comedian's badge, however, did not feature in this 1986 collection of larger badges of other striking images from the comics - Rorschach's mask, "ego ipse custodes custudio" (Who Watches The Watchmen), the nuclear system and the Doomsday Clock - which gradually counted down to midnight on the back of each issue of the original run of comics.

Finally, for your delectation, I present one of my most treasured possessions: Ray Winninger's Watchmen sourcebook for the DC Heroes role-playing game, from 1990.

This 128-page book, packed with Dave Gibbons' art and written with the aid - and approval - of Alan Moore, is chock full of background details on the Minutemen, the Watchmen and their villains.

Despite its strange use of various shades of orange as a spot-colour, this is probably the definitive "in universe" guide to the world of the Watchmen currently available.

If anyone was considering running their own homebrew role-playing game based on the film (or the comics) I'd recommend getting hold of this book as a starting point, after the comics themselves (I saw a copy on eBay the other day for a reasonable price).

As well as the expected maps and role-playing statistics for all the major players (DC Heroes wasn't the most straight-forward game to run, but I'm sure with a minimum of maths it would be easy to translate these into other systems... or even just use them as guidelines), the book is peppered with faux newspaper clippings, posters, and police and psychological reports.

It goes far beyond what we learn in the comics about the world of the Watchmen, expanding on names and incidents that were mentioned in passing - so it's no wonder that the forthcoming tie-in video game, Watchmen: The End is Nigh (from Deadline Games), is using this - and the two modules produced for the RPG (Who Watches The Watchmen? and Taking Out The Trash) - as canon source material.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Bottom Of The Pile: Ultimate Hulk Annual #1

In stark contrast to his (so far) excellent work on Ultimatum, Jeph Loeb's Ultimate Hulk annual has more in common with his sub-par work on the recent run of The Ultimates.

Since the Hulk escaped his supposed execution for mass murder, he has slowly undergone a character transformation from the near-brainless, murderous monster we first encountered in the superb Millar and Hitch run on the Ultimates, who was just as likely to eat someone as rip them apart in his primal fury.

Now, in the Ultimate Hulk annual, he's turning up at roadside restaurants asking for "pancake waffles" and offering to pay for them with handfuls of cash.

In the cafe he runs into Zarda, aka Power Princess, the Squadron Supreme's answer to Wonder Woman, who remained in the Ultimate universe after the Ultimate Power cross-over event.

The two fight, make up, eat waffles and have sex. Yes, I'm not kidding you... the whole annual was building to this one gag. Never mind the fact that the Hulk is recognisably one of the biggest mass murderers in Ultimate America (until Magneto unleashes the Ultimatum Wave) and no one alerts the authorities... or the Ultimates of his arrival at Appletite's Retaurant in Kansas or his renting a room in a nearby motel!

I'm no prude and have no objection to light-hearted moments in otherwise serious comics, but this whole issue is just one shaggy dog story so Loeb can get in his Hulk/Wonder Woman sex moment, and continue his erosion of this imprint's carefully considered verisimilitude.

It's not that it's badly drawn, the set-up just doesn't work!

Top Of The Pile: The Stand #4

As the first five-part story arc in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand moves towards its conclusion, the stage is being set for the ultimate confrontation between the forces of good and evil as the central characters are introduced and manoeuvred into place.

So far, the Captain Trips arc has mainly concentrated on the "good guys" - Frannie Goldsmith, Larry Underwood, Stuart Redman and Nick Andros - but we've also met the psychopathic outlaw Lloyd Henreid and have seen glimpses of the all-powerful Walkin' Dude, the personification of evil: Randall Flagg.

The flu-like plague is still building momentum and society is beginning to crumble as it spreads, while our attention flits between the lives of the various characters, who - in true King style - still have a way to go before they meet.

Mike Perkins' art continues to dazzle with its near photo-realistic quality and I'm just hoping that once Captain Trips wraps with the next issue (at the end of this month), we don't have to wait too long for chapter two (American Nightmares) of this post-apocalyptic epic to launch.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Demons: Saving Grace

It may not be that original, and it may suffer from light plots and low-budget effects, but there is an undeniable enthusiasm and charm about Demons that recent BBC attempts at genre TV have lacked (ie. Merlin and Survivors).

This week's episode, Saving Grace, saw rat-man Tobias 'You Can Call Me Mister' Tibbs (Kevin McNally) leading Galvin (Philip Glenister) and Luke (Christian Cooke) into a (rather obvious) trap, while simultaneously managing to get a Trojan Horse into The Stacks, that allowed him to plant an Austin Powers-style bomb there.

Galvin was blinded to the massive neon signs screaming "TRAP" by his desire for revenge against Tibbs, as the rat-man murdered his wife 20 years ago.

The episode's sub-plot, echoing Galvin's obliviousness to the bleedin' obvious, revolved around Luke's total ignorance of Ruby's attraction to him, with him unable to understand why she puts her life in danger every week by helping him battle the half-life creatures.

Although this allowed Ruby to have one of those "are you saying what I think you're saying conversations" with Luke's mum (who, as in all these shows, misses everything that is going around her), Lucy Watkins' script didn't really deliver anything original... down to the final confession of love on the answerphone that Ruby managed to stop Luke listening to.

In fact the whole sequence of Ruby in The Stacks with the bomb was utterly preposterous - with ten or 15 minutes left on the timer she decides to find a book on how to deactivate bombs... when there was a perfectly fine water-filled sewer or underground river outside the door that she could have surely dumped the bomb in.

But for all its weaknesses and the overriding air of a British attempt to reinvent Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the characters in Demons have a lot going for them. For instance, I like the fact that Luke readily embraced his destiny as a male 'Buffy', and - so far - we haven't had the 'why me?' speech.

The rest of his Scooby Gang are rapidly falling into their Buffy roles as well; blind, psychic Mina with her innate pyschometry gift is Willow, Ruby is the group's Zeppo and thus takes the role of Xander, and Rupert Galvin is so blatantly Rubert Giles that they barely bothered to change the name.

And I think Philip Glenister's phoney American accent is growing on me.

And So Grows The Horde...

My latest shipment of painted zombies arrived from Neil this week for PROJECT Z. While this marks a temporary moratorium on figure buying/painting, I'm pretty sure I now have more than enough flesh-eaters to get a decent zompocalypse game going.

In the meantime, let's review the latest batch:

First staggering out the gate are the excellent Survivor: The Walking Dead range from Griffin Miniatures (above). Although they are a very heroic 28mm (closer to 32mm) size, despite some mold lines on the figures, the detailing is so impressive that I'm willing to let this slide.

Complete with gruesome wounds and lost limbs, this is certainly the best range of zombies I have yet encountered. These 15 figures come with five survivor figures and form the only releases for the range so far, but more are promised.

Next (above) we have a "pack of the dead" and a couple of toxic zombies (the ones crawling out of the storage drums) from Australia's Eureka Miniatures' "Movie Monsters" range. The main zombies are suitably generic, having no real clothing, and would be suitable for any gaming time period.

Here we have a couple of The Dead Will Walk packs from Cold War. Definitely the widest range of individualised zombies on the market (my packs are 'Undead In London' and 'All Dressed Up', because I felt these gave the best impression of a London setting... or at least England, for my games).

On the downside, they are very spindly casts and some of the miniatures can be rather fragile, especially if you opt for the old style 'pin' bases (which slot a small tag on the foot of figure into a stylised base) rather than a newer casts which have traditional slotta bases.

Contrasting with the excellent work of the first three companies above, we come to Amazon Miniatures' Zombies On The Mall, Father Benedict and zombified Guns & Girls. Except for the zombified versions of three of their Guns & Girls line, the other figures were little more than featureless lumps of metal with hideous amounts of flashing and mold lines on.
Neil has worked wonders on these to produce figures that can pass as zombies in a crowd, but these were certainly the most disappointing of my purchases - lacking any of the charm or detail of the other zombies featured here.

My earlier zombie purchases (as painted by Neil) can be found here.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Happy Second Anniversary, HeroPress!

Before we go any further I have to say an incredible, big "thank you" to the multi-talented Reis O'Brien, the High Priest of Geek, over at Geek Orthodox, for this amazing anniversary illustration. You're The Man!
While on the subject of "thanking people", I also have to take a moment to thank PMikey (from The Midnight's Lair forums) for his continued help and support 'behind the scenes' of HeroPress.

Obviously, I'd also like to thank my 25 "followers" on Blogger and 28 "readers" on Facebook, and everyone who continues to drop in, peruse my ramblings and, hopefully, post some comments.

Your comments are the lifeblood of HeroPress and I hope you will continue to prove to me that I'm not just ranting in a dark, empty void!

I still find it hard to believe I've stuck with this for two, whole years!
Looking back, this has been a good 12 months overall for HeroPress, with the only major break in postings coming in March, when Rachel and I moved house, but I still managed to post my 1,000th post as visitor numbers race past 45,000. Remember this time last year I was ecstatic that I'd had 10,000 visitors to the site.

This massive tidal wave of visitors is almost certainly down to my membership, since last August, of The RPG Bloggers Network, which directs readers to any articles I write about role-playing games.

2008 also saw HeroPress enrolling in The Comic Blog Elite, which lists the top 100 comic book related blogs. We rocketed up the charts and have now settled into a comfortable position around 27/28th in the league. Which isn't bad for a magazine format blog that flips its focus at a moment's notice - on the whim of the author (ie. me).

I'm hoping that 2009 will become more focused, with less 'coasting', as I intend to (try and) concentrate more on superhero-related matters (as that was the foundation of the original HeroPress) in films, television and comics; Doctor Who (which I think I've been doing quite well already); a certain, unpublished role-playing game; zombies (as, hopefully, PROJECT Z takes off); a dash of Star Wars and general sci-fi; and odd items of general silliness (quite possibly involving monkeys).

No doubt I will continue making cosmetic changes to the site, in an attempt to make it both informative and more readable, and, you never know, now that I've discovered that Pete does a podcast as part of his job I intend to get him to explain the technicalities and I might actually get the long-promised HeroPress podcast on the air sometime in the next 12 months!

I don't think I'm going to bother with the monthly statistics anymore, as I've realised they're rapidly becoming meaningless, and, sadly, I'm also dropping the Six Of The Best interviews (for the moment, anyway) for logistical reasons.

On the other hand I've got 'Geek Pin-Ups' lined up through to 2010 and have no intention of calling a halt to 'The Week In Geek'; both of which are proving very popular regular items on HeroPress.

Finally, I'd just like to repeat my thanks to anyone who is reading this - it makes everything worthwhile and brings a smile to an old geek's face.

Now I don't know about you lot, but Rachel and I are going to celebrate!

Bring on the dancing girls!


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