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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Merlin: Beauty And The Beast (part two)

If ever there was a story which demonstrated to me how I am so not the target audience of Merlin it's been this two-parter, which I've loved but - from the feedback I've had from die-hard Merlin fans - has not gone down so well in other quarters.

After last week's wedding between Uther and the Lady Catrina (who is really a shapeshifted troll), the new Queen starts her campaign to drive a wedge between the King and his heir - Arthur - by first framing his servant, Merlin, for the theft of her family seal.

This effectively made Merlin an outlaw in Camelot and he was forced to operate "behind-the-scenes".

Catrina then sweet talks Uther into tightening his grip on his subjects and increasing taxes to get her more wealth; when Arthur refuses to enforce these new taxes, Uther disowns his son and has Catrina declared next in line to the throne.

By this time Merlin and Gaius have figured out that the troll is using a potion to maintain her human form and so substitute one of their own.

However, even when Catrina's mask slips and she is revealed as a troll to the inhabitants of Camelot, her enchantment over Uther is so great that he still sees her as his glamourous bride and threatens execution for any who continue to call her a "stinking troll".

The story did get a bit far-fetched at this point, even given its already semi-pantomime nature and credibility was stretched pretty much to breaking point that every single person in Camelot (including all the knights etc) would go along with Uther's belief that Catrina was not a troll, despite the evidence before their eyes - especially when she had her chair replaced by a pile of horse dung (the earlier dung-eating moment was great, though!).

Catrina's use of her 'bog breath' to render Uther unconscious was a useful development of her powers, but given the supposed strength of her hold over him it made me question how much of the previous deception was really necessary.

I suppose she had to maneuver him into a position where people would first accept their marriage and then her appointment as his successor, but by this stage believability was being taxed as heavily as the peasants of Camelot.

It didn't help that there were also marked plot similarities to that of this week's excellent Sarah Jane Adventures where Sarah Jane's engagement ring glowed red every time she was manipulated in just the same way that Uther's magic medallion did here.

Unfortunately the sublime set-up of the previous episode required a rather clichéd resolution, which while handled well still felt like a drop in quality from part one of the story.

Where the episode shone for me was the insights into Arthur's character, as - when he was standing up to his father's outrageous calls for tax hikes - we began to see the growth of the strong-willed and good-hearted Arthur of legend; rather than the posh oik he was made out to be in the first season of the show.

The truly classic moment though came in the episode's denouement with his reaction to Merlin going for the inappropriate "matey" hug; that was a genuine laugh-out loud moment in the show that didn't actually revolve around bodily functions.

I don't believe this broad style of humour could be sustained in a show like Merlin, without reducing it to a cut-price Carry On clone, but as an occasional excuse to run stories that are more character-led than action-led it worked well; especially as the plot didn't have to all be wrapped up in a single episode.

That said, I am very intrigued by the darker tones and strong potential of next week's story The Witchfinder - which feels slightly anachronistic, but in a way that could lead to another good episode:

Doctor Who: Marco Polo (1964)

Tucked away on the DVD of The Edge Of Destruction is a 30-minute condensed version of Marco Polo, the next story from the first season and one of the 'lost' tales that has been wiped from the BBC archives.

Illustrated with stills from the production, and the occasional subtitle during action sequences, the abridgment makes use of the original, surviving soundtrack.

The First Doctor, Susan, Barbara and Ian arrive in the Himalayas in the 13th Century, and the TARDIS immediately decides to break down. The group are then discovered by a travelling band of Mongols, part of a caravan led by Marco Polo (Mark Eden) who offers to escort our heroes to safety.

Unfortunately for them, he has an ulterior motive, seeing The Doctor's "magic flying caravan" as the perfect gift to buy his freedom from his master, Kublai Khan (Martin Miller).

The TARDIS crew, along with Marco, then embark on an epic journey across the Gobi Desert and Cathay (China) to the court of Kublai Khan - plagued along the way by treacherous Mongols in the shape of ambassador Tegana (Derren Nesbit), dehydration and failed escape attempts.

There's also a strong sub-plot about Ping-Cho (Zienia Merton), another traveler in the caravan, who is on her way to an arranged marriage - a concept that is shocking to Susan and she will encounter again, more directly, in The Aztecs.

As an aside, Zienia Merton returned to the Whoniverse this week as the Registrar for The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith.

The duration of the narrative - weeks, possibly months, of travel - makes Marco Polo an interesting Doctor Who story, as very few others involve The Doctor staying in one place (well, one storyline) for quite such a protracted period of time and this is almost certainly the longest 'real time' story to date on the show.

It even features an interesting linking technique of monologues from Marco Polo over a map of the route, with a line being drawn as the caravan makes its progress (a technique familiar to modern audiences from the Indiana Jones movies).

Finally arriving at the court of Kublai Khan, The Doctor and Khan bond through their common frailty and love of backgammon and when a villainous Mongol warlord marches on the court, Marco saves the Khan from assassination by Tegana and decides it is probably best to let the time travelers go on their way.

It's fascinating how, in these early stories, much is made of the physical infirmity of The Doctor - presumably he has nearly worn this body out through natural use, something that doesn't have a chance to happen with his subsequent regenerations.

Perhaps this "old age" also explains his crotchetiness - that and the fact that he has yet to really develop a strong connection with the planet Earth and its people.

There is even a great of openness about the nature of the TARDIS, not only is Marco (and the Khan) told that it flies, but also, eventually, that it moves in time as well; something that the explorer is less inclined to believe.

I realise there is a CD available of the full soundtrack, but the main thrust of my Doctor Who reviews has always been the visual medium (ie. DVD and TV) and I said quite some time ago that I have 'issues' with the way the linking narration is done of these discs.

I also have to wonder, even with a story as compelling as this one, does it merit seven episodes?

Vampirella Week: Happy Halloween!

Don't forget the new Vampirella comic from Harris.

Ladies & Gentlemen, Let's Shout 'Happy Halloween' To...

The latest recruit to the HeroPress superteam is:


Friday, 30 October 2009

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith

After the slightly underwhelming Mad Woman In The Attic last week, there was a very slight, nagging doubt at the back of my mind that maybe The Sarah Jane Adventures - perhaps finally overwhelmed by the availability of great special effects and the almost unlimited potential of CGI - was on the verge of jumping the shark.

Of course, that was a fatuous fear given that this week's much-publicised story would see the reteaming of Sarah Jane with The Doctor, for the first time in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

And the moment Gareth Roberts' script for The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith began to unfold on screen, I knew we were in safe hands.

We were thrown in in media res; Sarah Jane had been sneaking off over the past month, using pretty feeble excuses to explain her absence, and her Scoobie Gang of young assistants were getting suspicious. However, when they followed her they discover she wasn't fighting aliens... but actually seeing a dashing lawyer named Peter Dalton (Nigel Havers).

Luke took to him immediately, as a potential 'father figure', but Clyde (who has issues with his own father) was a bit suspicious about the haste with which things were moving; just after he and Rani discover that Peter's house is in fact empty and unlived in, Sarah Jane declares that she and Peter are getting married.

This further heightens Clyde's belief that "something is going on", especially when Sarah Jane says she's turning her back on her old life and deactivates Mr Smith the supercomputer.

Rani and Luke become involved in the hasty wedding planning, while Clyde - who is given K9 to look after - continues to express his doubts at every opportunity, but only gets his chance to be proved right at the ceremony when The Doctor himself (David Tennant) bursts in, demanding the event be halted.

His arrival co-incides with the materialisation of The Trickster (Paul Marc Davis), a regular foe of Sarah Jane's - from Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane and The Temptation Of Sarah Jane, as well as getting a namecheck in The Doctor's own Turn Left - and the revelation that (surprise, surprise) the whole thing has been an evil scheme orchestrated by the demonic alien.

The Trickster is revealed as a godlike member of the Pantheon Of Discord, which The Doctor has heard legends of since he was a child, and he has his own piece of foreshadowing for The Doctor when he tells him "the gate" is waiting for him.

Before The Doctor's actual appearance, during the run of the first episode, we heard the wheezing-groan of the TARDIS three times before it actually materialised outside the room where the wedding was being held.

I wonder if this "four times" is significant, if it has any bearing on the "knock four times" prophecy from Planet Of The Dead; perhaps an echo or further foreshadowing of impending doom?

The Trickster's scheme sees Sarah Jane and her beau trapped in one second of time, while her friends (Clyde, Luke, Rani and The Doctor) are held hostage in another second - and the rest of the wedding party continue on as normal.

Sarah Jane is then given the ultimatum of saying "I do" to Peter, which will mean forgetting her old life and leaving the Earth open to alien attack and general chaos, or staying trapped forever in a bubble of time.

Once we learned Peter's true story, the resolution to The Trickster's conundrum was genuinely heartbreaking and it took the sheer joy on the youngsters' faces, when they finally got to look round the control room of the TARDIS at the end of the story, to put a smile back on both my face and Sarah Janes'.

The Doctor's cameo in this story was perfectly crafted by Gareth Roberts, as the real heroes of the piece turned out to be Peter and Clyde, with The Doctor - as ever - and Sarah Jane just being the enablers.

It also wouldn't be fair to Sarah Jane for The Doctor to pop up on her programme and solve her catastrophe-of-the-week.

Everyone involved in this two-parter deserves an award for its incredible emotional impact, tight scriptwriting (including several nice references to Whoniverse continuity), spot-on direction and cracking soundtrack.

Without a doubt this was the strongest story to date from The Sarah Jane Adventures, and not just because of The Doctor's presence.

Next week: The Eternity Trap.

Halloween Treat Three: Clive Barker's Book Of Blood (2008)

After the distinct, bright colours and dark humour of Drag Me To Hell and Trick 'R Treat, the muted palette and grim Britishness of Clive Barker's Book Of Blood was a stark contrast.

This was no laughfest, but a straight-up ghost story; a cautionary tale of the dangers of playing with supernatural forces, fake seances and claims of mediumship (Derek Acorah and Sally Morgan pay heed!)

Sophie Ward stars as a superhot college lecturer and paranormal investigator, Mary Florescu, who befriends a shy and handsome student, Simon McNeal (Jonas Armstrong from the recently-axed Robin Hood series on the BBC), who she believes has the gift of foresight and may even be able to contact the dead.

For her next book, Mary and her sidekick Reg (Paul Blair) are investigating a house in Edinburgh with a history of strange and brutal murders connected with attempts to commune the afterlife.

But things don't go quite according to plan.

Writer/director John Harrison's script - an adaptation of two Clive Barker short stories The Book Of Blood and On Jerusalem Street, the first and last stories from the magnificent six-volume collection of Clive Barker's Books Of Blood - is an intriguing mix of misdirection and investigation that would make Derren Brown proud with genuine ghoulish horror straight from the Hellraiser file (shady removal men, mattress action, cracking walls, peeling skin etc).

While not as mythology-birthing as the original Hellraiser, Harrison is clearly aiming for the same atmosphere - and has wisely retained Barker's British roots rather than relocating the action to the States as happens with many attempts to bring Barker's visceral horror to the big screen.

If nothing else the original Book Of Blood story gave us the concept of "highways of the dead", which later became a prevalent theme in some of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer spin-off novels, and - after Lovecraft - got me hooked into reading horror fiction when I first discovered it in the late '80s.

The main story, about the relationship between Mary and Simon and the creation of the titular Book Of Blood, is bookended with a suitably grubby tale of a bounty hunter capturing Simon for a mysterious "collector".

What this does mean is that after the initial establishing shocks, the story settles down and it isn't really until about half-an-hour in that things start to get going again.

It's also quite bleak (a lot of that can be attributed to its Scottish setting) and the performances are quite understated from the leads, which doesn't make them particularly sympathetic - but then again that is a trait I've found in a lot of Barker's fiction.

Nevertheless, especially for fans of intellectual side of the Hellraiser franchise or slow-burning Lovecraftian horror, Book Of Blood is a powerful piece, effectively moving the Most Haunted concept sideways into a fictional world where ghosts really exist... and don't particularly appreciate being disturbed by people unable to truly understand what they are trying to say.

Vampirella Week: Day Six...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Scanning For Visuals, Master....

Disney XD (Sky Channel 607, Virgin 707) in the UK is screening a full half-hour episode of the new Australian Doctor Who spin-off K9 on Saturday evening, before the full series begins next year.

The episode airs at 6pm (the same time as Merlin), and I believe will actually be The Fall of the House of Gryffen, the seventh episode of the 26-episode serial.

For a bit of background on K9 the series look here.

I'm kind of looking forward to it, because of its increasingly tenuous Doctor Who connection, but I'm not at all convinced, by the snippets I've seen to date, that it will actually be any good. The young actors certainly don't appear to be up to the standards of the cast of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

And, of course as if you needed reminding, this afternoon is the first episode of The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith (at 4.35pm on BBC1) - with special guest star David Tennant as the 10th Doctor.

Vampirella Week: Day Five...

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Halloween Treat Two: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Having enjoyed all three of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies and the first couple of Spider-Man films, I was looking forward to his return to the horror genre with Drag Me To Hell.

And he didn't disappoint - it's a masterclass in inventive, stylised horror movie-making.

Christine Brown (the rather Anna Paquin-like Alison Lohman) is a nondescript loan officer, eager for promotion to assistant manager at her bank.

She has a pleasant boyfriend Clayton Dalton (Dodgeball's Justin Long) and a generally decent life until, hungry to prove she can make 'tough decisions' at the bank, she refuses elderly gypsy Mrs Ganush (Lorna Raver) a third extension on her mortgage.

The gypsy woman ambushes her in the bank's underground car park that night and after an extended tussle puts a curse on Christine, that after three days a "lamia" will come to claim her soul and take it down to hell.

And that's when the real fun starts...

Christine begins to hear noises, be attacked by shadows and hallucinate, much to the confusion of her skeptical, but concerned, boyfriend.

She turns to a a local psychic for help, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) who eventually directs her to a medium Shaun San Dena (Adrianna Barraza) who has faced the lamia before.

As events unfold, and Christine is driven to greater and greater extremes to try and break the curse, there is a definite suggestion that she may not be the pure-as-driven-snow character we were lead to believe at first. She lost my sympathy with her choice of blood sacrifice!

This is Raimi back in the genre that made his name and we are treated to a shopping list of the tropes that we most associate with his horror work - from flying eyeballs and fountains of blood to cartoon violence and comedy sound effects - each of which pops up once, and only once, so as not to distract from the verisimilitude of the movie.

Not only is Drag Me To Hell a return to Evil Dead territory (when the lamia possessed the medium's assistant and had him floating like an Evil Dead Kandarian demon I wondered if this was actually meant to be an informal sequel to the trilogy, or at least set in the same 'universe'), but it has more in common with some of my favourite old black and white horror movies (e.g. The Haunting and Night Of The Demon) than most modern horror flicks, relying, as it does, more on what is not seen than what is shown.

Which isn't to say it doesn't have its disgusting moments, but the real frights come from suggestion and anticipation, rather than vomit-streams of bugs or eyeballs in cakes, which are so Grand Guignol that they induce as much laughter as screams.

Drag Me To Hell is quite special too in that much of the thrills come about in broad daylight, sometimes in very public places (as well as the usual late night expeditions to graveyards and chilling seances in strange old houses).

If you pay attention during the 95-minute movie the inevitable twist towards the tail end of the plot is rather obvious, but - credit to Raimi - that still doesn't undermine the full impact of the shocking final scene.

Everyone Lives!

The first thing that needs to be said about last night's meeting of The Tuesday Knights was that everyone survived the adventure (and there was great rejoicing throughout the land).

After recent bloodbaths this was by no means guaranteed, but the group had learned from bitter experience - and the words of wisdom from sundry HeroPress readers - after the last massacre.

They hired three beefy fighters to add muscle to their party and Clare went in tooled up with flasks of oil, ready to ignite anything that looked at her a bit strange.

They were hired by the village mayor to root out a local evil (ie. I found them a new dungeon to explore, rather than the usual White Rabbit Castle meatgrinder), which happened to be a free download from Goblinoid Games, makers of Labyrinth Lord (our current system of choice), called The Tomb Of Sigyfel.

There were a couple of potential false starts when (a) they couldn't force open the first door into the dungeon and (b) they then set off a scything blade trap (the Tuesday Knights have a history with these) which could have wiped out 90 per cent of the party in one fell swoop!

But these were quickly dealt with and the mayhem commenced, as recorded on my Chronicles Of Tekralh campaign blog.

The nature of this dungeon meant Nick's cleric got to flex his 'turning' muscles several times - the first being a spectacular turn of some skeletons who all ran into a wall and disintegrated (a liberal and creative reading of dice result result there).

The fight with Sigyfel (a dead wizard now turned into a ghoul) made for a grand centre piece of the evening, with the party once more teetering on the brink of a TPK until Clare saw an opportunity for some incendiary fun; smashing a lit lantern over the undead fiend's head she rolled some great damage dice and killed the monster that had pretty much KOed or paralysed the rest of the party (one hireling pegged it at this stage, deciding he'd had enough).

Because this session had been postponed from its original slot earlier in the month, the next meeting of the Tuesday Knights is in just two weeks, a couple of days after Nick's stag night (he marries Clare at the end of November) and there is a rumour that Steve, who will be joining us for the stag do, may even be able to attend the next games night.

This could mean a return to White Rabbit Castle!

Even better, according to Pete, Steve's work hours have changed and he may actually be able to return to our ranks on a regular basis - just in time for our next campaign... Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space.

The provisional timetable for the rest of the year is: November meeting - Labyrinth Lord, as per normal; December - providing my copy of Cubicle 7's Doctor Who RPG has turned up, making characters for the new system and possibly a test run through the rules to get ready for the full campaign to start in January.

Vampirella Week: Day Four...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Week In Geek...

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

(1) Blast Off Today: The next generation of American space exploration is due to begin today (Tuesday) with the launch of the Ares I-X test rocket.

(2) Hit Dice For The Fat Lady: An Australian comedy troupe is putting on Dungeons & Dragons: The Opera next month in Melbourme, then touring the States with it in 2010.

(3) Follow In Kaiju Footsteps: A new travel guide to Japan will allow fans of giant monster movies to follow in their idols' massive footsteps.

(4) Is Fourth Pirates Sinking Already? A black spot is seemingly looking over the future of Pirates Of The Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides.

(5) Disney Steams Into The Air: Disney aims to make a steampunk movie out of Eoin Cofler's Airman novel.

(6) Virtual D&D: Watch this stunning demonstration of a possible future direction for Dungeons & Dragons 4e. I'd miss rolling real dice though!

(7) JSA Come To Smallville: Geoff Johns' next episode of Smallville features The Justice Society of America, and news of some of the casting has leaked out already.

(8) The Doctor Is On: Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, has his own official website now.

(9) Have A Magic Halloween: Two stars from BBC's Merlin - Angel Coulby and Bradley James - are appearing at the Forbidden Planet in London on Halloween for a signing event.

(10) Starbuck Follows Wesley: The latest geek celebrity guest to star on the brilliant Big Bang Theory, after Wil Wheaton's recent turn, is Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff.

(11) US Military To Use Lightsabers: The Pentagon is investigating the use of a "wearable low-power plasma knife" in the treatment injured soldiers on the front line.

(12) Dollhouse Swept Out Of Schedules: Troubled Dollhouse has been taken out of Fox's schedule for November (the 'sweeps' period), but returns in December in double-doses.

(13) This Has All Happened Before: Some Star Wars Easter Eggs to look out for in The Clone Wars animated series.

(14) Marvel Goes Post-Apocalyptic: Marvel Comics is relaunching 70s and 80s' staple Deathlok as a seven-issue miniseries from its mature imprint MAX.

(15) Tuesday Knights Try Again: The Tuesday Knights ride again this evening as we return to our regularly scheduled Labyrinth Lord campaign.

Vampirella Week: Day Three...

Monday, 26 October 2009

Halloween Treat One: Trick 'r Treat (2007)

How better to start this Halloween week than with Michael Dougherty's keenly-anticipated Trick 'R Treat, a marvelous portmanteau film that does for the horror genre what Pulp Fiction did for gangsters.

Dougherty's film interweaves several stories, all occurring simultaneously in a small American town during a Halloween festival, with time jumping back and forward so we get to see several events from different perspectives.

Among the stories are those of a group of youngsters whose cruel prank on the local 'idiot savant' backfires unexpectedly; the school principal (Dylan Baker - from the Spider-Man movies), a widower and single-father, who happens to be a serial killer; Laurie, the young virgin (Anna Paquin, foreshadowing her True Blood days) looking for the right man to take to a wild party with her sister and friends; and an irascible old man (Brian Cox) trapped in his house with a button-eyed, seasonal demon called Sam (Quinn Lloyd) - as in Samhain.

As well as a subtle investigation of the lore and legends surrounding Halloween, Trick 'r Treat is a well-balanced blend of creepiness and gore, with a little bit of skin, a little bit of cussing and whole heap of atmosphere; especially as you begin to piece together the connections between the sundry plotlines. Not that the film is written as a mystery, but it certainly adds to the enjoyment as the pieces fall into place.

A lot goes unexplained as well, but this doesn't matter because the movie is a celebration of the spooky stories and urban myths kids and adults tell each other at this time of year; and how many of them make true sense in the cold light of day?

Splattered with gruesome, dark humour, this is campfire scares, rather than nasty brutal shocks, that build to a big climax for each yarn that is often tinged with mocking or ironic laughter.

A thoroughly enjoyable 79-minutes of quality horror, I can see this becoming a Halloween fixture at HeroPress Towers (not that I'd ever get Rachel to watch it, no matter how cute Sam is!)

* As an aside, this brand new DVD, released this week, cost me (from almost a pound less than the cost of a single cinema ticket at our local multiplex.

I just can't understand, in this time of global recession, when people need entertainment to take their mind off the lack of ready cash in their pocket, a cinema (outside of a major city, where everything is more expensive anyway) charging £8.90 for a person to see a film.

If this ludicrous pricing policy continues I can foresee the tragic death of the cinema and the rise of home entertainment.

For less than the price of a cinema ticket I've got this film for as long as I want to keep it, to view as many times as I like in comfortable surroundings; a film I can loan to friends and watch whenever the mood takes me... without having to struggle to an out-of-town multiplex stocked with overpriced sweets.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Ghost House

With a choice of six original Sarah Jane Adventures' audio stories to chose from (each just over about an hour long and read by Elisabeth Sladen), I selected The Ghost House first because the blurb on the back of the CD case spoke of "a crack in time" and a "temporal anomaly"... which all sounded jolly exciting to me.

However, while I went in expecting a spooky haunted house story, The Ghost House quickly revealed itself to be the tale of an alien bounty hunter, called Deathy (who Lis Sladen gifted with an outrageous, Monty Pythonesque French accent), and his prey.

There was no hanging about in Stephen Cole's breathless story, which hit the ground running and kept the action going right through to the closing theme tune.

The fun starts at 5am one Sunday morning when Sarah Jane spots a 1970s' house across from the road from her home has been replaced by a Victorian residence.

Luckily the residents of the house, the O'Brien's, are on holiday because gradually the "temporal anomaly" is swapping the modern fixtures and fittings inside the house for their Victorian counterparts.

When Sarah Jane, and her young helpers, investigate they find a portal that travels back through time 125 years and is gradually expanding.

Mr Smith - Sarah Jane's supercomputer - informs them that if "the crack in time" keeps growing it could devastate life on Earth!

Soon after that Sarah Jane finds a strange three-eyed alien in her house, Rani has to babysit a time-displaced Victorian infant, and Clyde wonders if they will be able to save the planet before the Hollyoaks Omnibus (10am on a Sunday morning).

While Stephen Cole's story is reasonably straight forward, it's still full of character colour (such as the detailed backgrounds of Deathy's prey) and continuity references.

Although Lis Sladen gave the main alien a distinct accent, as I've already said, she doesn't really give Clyde, Rani and Luke particular accents - just enough to differentiate the characters as she speaks on their behalf - because it is Sarah Jane telling us this story herself and that would seem a bit strange.

It certainly adds a layer of authenticity to have Lis Sladen reading the story, almost as though Sarah Jane Smith was reading it from her own journals.

Vampirella Week: Day Two...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Big Bang Sunday!

Sometimes the ingenuity of my fellow geeks truly amazes me.

Big Bang Tees is a site dedicated to helping fans of The Big Bang Theory (the best comedy currently on TV) find online the various T-shirts worn by its main characters (particularly Sheldon and Leonard).

I'd love me a wardrobe full of Sheldonesque T-shirts!

There's even a section on the site for locating other geeky paraphernalia seen on the show (such as Sheldon's clothes' folding board!).

Fans of the show might also be interested to know that the characters (as opposed to the actors) have their own Twitter accounts; should you wish to get drawn into some bizarre Alternate Reality Game-style of conversation.

These are:

* Sheldon Cooper
* Howard Wolowitz
* Leonard Hoftstadter
* Rajesh Koothrappali
* Penny

Does Penny have a surname? Has Leonard or any of the others ever asked her?

Vampirella Week: Day One...

Celebrating the countdown to Halloween with an iconic horror pin-up.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Merlin: Beauty And The Beast (part one)

It would seem that Merlin's strengths may lie in its character-driven, court politics stories as Beauty And The Beast (part one) was quite possibly the best episode of the show to date.

The last survivor of a noble house, Lady Catrina (Doctor Who's Empress of The Racnoss herself, Sarah Parish) turns up at Camelot with her odious manservant, Jonas (Adam Godley), in tow and very soon Uther (Anthony Head) is enchanted by her... quite literally when she gives him a magical pendant that makes him even more susceptible to her suggestions.

However, Gaius (Richard Wilson) and Merlin (Colin Morgan) are suspicious and discover she is actually a flatulent, shapechanging troll after the wealth and power of Camelot; unfortunately no-one believes them!

In turn, Jonas and Catrina become aware of the fact that Merlin is onto them and has some knowledge of magic, and so they trick him into her lair beneath the castle, where he is trapped by a magical rockfall and the episode ends with the wedding of Catrina to Uther; just as Merlin escapes his imprisonment.

The realisation of Catrina's trollishness - both in her troll form and human form - was brilliant, with Sarah Parish again showing her great ability to act as an "inhuman monster" (as she did in The Runaway Bride). In fact, the way she twists her face and body, while in human form, almost makes that side of her more unnerving than the fully made-up troll form.

Her "breath of decay", which rots foodstuffs instantly, is truly disgusting and I suspect we will see more of that next week.

Kudos also to Adam Godley as the inhuman Jonas (we're not sure yet what sort of monster he actually is, but he has a tail!), however the strongest performance, as ever, came from Anthony Head who has made the character of proud, obstinate Uther his own.

Scriptwriter Jake Michie wisely limited the number of characters actively participating in this story, to allow the central romance between Catrina and Uther and the investigations of Merlin and Gaius to dominate.

This meant that although Morgana (Katie McGrath), Gwen (Angel Coulby) and Arthur (Bradley James) were present, their involvement so far in the story has been very limited (in fact, Morgana and Gwen were pretty much reduced to wallflowers - Gwen didn't have a single line of dialogue this week!).

Although there was a bit of fisticuffs towards the end - between Merlin and Jonas - I found I didn't miss the usual grand brawls or man-versus-monster match-ups that have generally been a central feature of Merlin.

If this is a sign of the standard of writing to come in this show, then I really think it has turned a corner, because, so far, Beauty And The Beast has been exactly what I was hoping for from Merlin from the moment it first aired.

It's a pity it's taken this long to get this good, but the wait has been proved worth it... long may it last!

Next Week:

Doctor Who's Taking Over The Country...

We all remember my visit to the Doctor Who Exhibition in Cardiff last year, right?

As it happens, there are Doctor Who exhibitions materialising all over the country and a YouTuber going by the handle of Uleac has compiled these very slick and professional overviews of the displays in Coventry and Blackpool.

Don't forget to click through to YouTube so you can rate these films and sing their praises!

Friday, 23 October 2009

From ABC to V...

ABC has decided to share the first nine-and-a-half minutes of its reboot of V.

I know some people can't see the point of remaking a classic like V, but it's no secret that the alien "visitors" are up to no good... or there wouldn't be a story.

The fun will come in how the story is told, how the aliens' deceit is exposed and how the people of Earth can strike back against vastly superior technology.

Personally, I'm just hoping it does the original series proud.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mad Woman In The Attic

It's 2059 and a young lad, Adam (Gregg Sulkin) has snuck into 13 Bannerman Road to confront The Mad Woman In The Attic - who turns out to be a lonely, bitter old Rani Chandra (Souad Faress).

Old Rani tells Adam about the time she lost touch with Sarah Jane and the others. She was jealous of the attention they still paid Maria (even though she's now 'working' in the States as "the new Sarah Jane Smith") and felt they were ignoring her own ideas, so - upon receiving an email from an old friend in her old hometown, Danemouth on the South Coast - she set out to investigate a case on her own.

First off I have to say I was very pleased to see a Sarah Jane Adventures story focusing on Rani Chandra, because the talented and cute 18-year-old Anjli Mohindra deserves her moment in the spotlight.

It was just a shame it was so obviously an "alternate future" story and something was going to happen in the second part of the story to negate the future where Rani turns into a crusty old spinster living in the attic of Sarah Jane's old house.

I couldn't help thinking of season one's Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane? and season two's The Temptation Of Sarah Jane Smith, not so much for the content but for the theme of altering decisions or actions at pivotal moments causing divergent - and usually less pleasant - timelines.

Rani bececame involved with Eve (Eleanor Tomlinson), a psychic alien with great story potential, especially being a young, time-sensitive refugee from the Dalek/Time Lord Time War (although that conflict was never cited by name, the clues were very clear - especially when Eve spoke to people being "exterminated").

The stunning, red-skinned alien also had a damaged timeship, known as Ship (Kate Fleetwood), helping two humans, Harry the theme park caretaker (Brian Miller) and Rani's friend, Sam (Toby Parkes) to look after her.

My main problem with Joseph Lidster's script was that there was so much going on that it became an unnecessarily tangled web that was clearly just hitting key points for future stories, such as freeing K-9 from his black hole duty and signposting the major guest star of the next story.

Creepy abandoned fairgrounds are rather hackneyed, as are possessed youngsters (especially in The Sarah Jane Adventures), which did little to contribute to any sense of verisimilitude in the avalanche of plot threads and big ideas (for example, Sarah and Luke were the last people to visit Sam in the children's home - in fact he left with Luke - and if he never goes back, which seems unlikely as he is now with Eve, wouldn't there be some kind of investigation... involving the police, maybe?)

While several parts played out rather like a clip show, flashing back to previous episodes, it was really good to see the foreshadowing of The 10th Doctor's appearance in next week's story and a couple of Sarah moments from the Classic Era with earlier incarnations of The Doctor.

Despite the disappointment - and predictability - of the main plot, there were still some great moments in The Mad Woman In The Attic, such as the comedic interplay between Sarah Jane and Clyde, especially when he was joking about her age (which might also be another indicator of her sudden desire to get married in the next story) and the story coda with Rani's "real", happier future (was I the only one who read into this the inference that she and Luke got married?) .

Wouldn't it be great to see in some future episode of Doctor Who - or a Sarah Jane Adventures with time travel -
Souad Faress return as the older, grandma Rani with her kids and grandkids. And the further adventures of Eve, Ship and their companions. I'm a sucker for this kind of continuity.

Next Week: The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith.

Doctor Who: The Edge Of Destruction (1964)

In its own way, the third Doctor Who story - The Edge Of Destruction - is as historically important to the show as the first two (An Unearthly Child and The Daleks).

Squeezed in after The Daleks to fulfill an initial 13-episode run that the show was granted by the BBC during the production of its first story (after others were dropped and stories were moved around in the schedule), this 47-minute two-parter not only proved the viability of telling stories in this comparatively short period of time (decades before Russell T Davies took Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire Slayer model as his template for new Who) but also established a precedent for the money-saving, low budget stories that, again, would become a staple of the 21st Century iteration of the show - with its annual 'Doctor-lite' episode.

What The Edge Of Destruction also did was establish The TARDIS as a character in its own right.

Having left Skaro at the end of The Daleks, The First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara are rendered unconscious by a sudden explosion within The TARDIS control room, but once they start to wake up confusion and paranoia reigns; the doors open and close on their own; strange images flash on the monitors; ship systems don't work properly.

The Doctor, having suffered a cut to the head, blames Ian and Barbara for their misfortune; Ian doesn't appear to know where he is and Susan goes a bit loopy, threatening people with a pair of surgical scissors. Only Barbara seems to keep a clear head.

None of them can figure out what has happened: has the TARDIS crashlanded or hit something? Has an alien intelligence gained access to the ship?

Accusations and recriminations fly, harsh words are exchanged as The Doctor tries to logically deduce what is going on while Barbara relies on her intuition.

The Edge Of Destruction, penned by story editor David Whitaker, is primarily concerned with developing the personalities of the four main characters and, eventually, building a degree of trust between The Doctor and his two new human associates.

Some of the effects - in particular the melting clocks - probably worked better on paper than in reality, and ultimately a degree of surreality is suggested that the story doesn't merit, but the claustrophobic nature of the piece and the character growth more than makes up for the thinness of plot and the obvious cheapness of some of the props (note the handwritten 'fast return' notice on the ship's console).

I believe this remains to date the only televised story to take place entirely within the confines of The TARDIS, a gimmick that is crying out to be revisited, especially now the vast expanse of the craft's interior has been established in subsequent stories.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Doctor Who: The Daleks (1963)

Despite its undeniably important place in the history of both science-fiction and Doctor Who, there is no escaping the fact that The Doctor's first encounter with his future arch-enemies, The Daleks, goes on a bit.

As would soon be shown by the its movie incarnation - Dr Who And The Daleks - this seven-part, three hour story could easily be cut in half without losing any of the main plot points.

The First Doctor (William Hartnell), Susan (Carole Anne Ford), Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) arrive on the war-ravaged world of Skaro, having escaped Stone Age Earth.

Barbara and Ian are still rather annoyed at being 'kidnapped' by The Doctor and just want to go home, but the wily Doctor sabotages The TARDIS to give the party a reason to explore a nearby deserted city - allegedly in the hopes of finding some mercury to fix the supposedly broken fluid link.

Little do they realise that they are all being exposed to radiation poisoning the longer they stay on the planet, left over from the one-day Neutronic War waged on Skaro 500 years earlier between the philosophical Dals and the warrior Thals.

Making it to the city, the group is captured by the resident daleks, the descendants of the surviving Dals who now exist in mobile containment units and have been living beneath the city in a self-contained environment.

The daleks are unaware of any other survivors from the war, but allow Susan - initially believing our heroes to be Thals - to return to the TARDIS in the hope that she will contact other survivors and bring back anti-radiation medicine.

Susan is found by the Thals, who have evolved into Aryan, pacifist, farmers but are now seeking new sources of food. The Thals are equally oblivious to the existence of the daleks and are easily tricked into entering the dalek city, where they are ambushed by the daleks - who despise anything that doesn't look like them.

The TARDIS crew escape with the Thals and are about to leave Skaro when Ian realises the daleks have taken the fluid link off of him and so they must return to the city.

Meanwhile the daleks, discovering the Thal-made anti-radiation medicine is actually poisonous to them, realise they need the radiation in the atmosphere to survive and so decide to flood the planet with more radiation!

There follows a very long and drawn out expedition back to the dalek city, trying to find ways in that aren't guarded by the killer pepper pots.

It's this second half of the story that really drags, despite supposedly being a race against time (before the daleks terminally pollute the planet).

The pacing, which was already rather leisurely, virtually grinds to a halt; for example, almost an entire episode is devoted to a trip through underground passages and most of that revolves around getting across a bottomless crevasse.

Unfortunately, the action doesn't improve once the TARDIS crew and the Thals have their final showdown with the daleks - the 'epic' final confrontation more closely resembles a massive playground bundle between over-excited children than a titanic struggle for ultimate survival between two races.

At this early stage in the show's life, The Doctor was not the lovable rascal he would become, but rather a frail and selfish old man, willing to resort to dangerous subterfuge to get his own way. Clearly he still had a lot to learn from humans!

Meanwhile, Barbara is involved in a chaste bit of flirting with one of the Thals, a sub-plot echoed years later in the Thal-human romance of Jo Grant in Planet Of The Daleks, seemingly oblivious to the obvious affection Ian has for her.

Doctor Who was already quite popular in the 1960s, but it was this debut appearance of the daleks in its second story that raised the programme's profile in the general consciousness of the country, and pretty much guaranteed its future by spawning "Dalekmania" - a phenomenon which gripped Britain in a similar way to Beatlemania.

Yes, it's a shame The Daleks isn't a tighter story, but I'd rather have it in this form than not at all - because without the daleks, created by Terry Nation and designed by Ray Cusick, we probably wouldn't have any Doctor Who today.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Top Of The Pile: Adventure Comics #3

In my limited exposure, over years of comic book reading, to Krypto The Superdog he's always been portrayed as just another superhero - who happens to look like a dog - or, worse, another superhero who happens to look like a dog pretending to be a dog.

Unsurprisingly, it's taken Geoff Johns in Adventure Comics to present us with a version of Krypto who actually behaves like a dog with superpowers. I'm no dog lover, but his scenes - ably assisted by the beautiful art of Francis Manapul - made Krypto not only a totally convincing character, but a wholly adorable one as well.

After the glorious pre-credit sequence of Connor (aka Superboy) bonding with Krypto (and Krypto 'fetching' various unconscious supervillains for his master), the action shifts to Paris where Connor - on his hunt for Lex Luthor - teams up with Red Robin (aka Tim Drake, former Teen Titan, former sidekick to Bruce Wayne's Batman).

In a few brief, tightly-scripted panels, for those of us who can't afford to buy the Red Robin title as well and are waiting for the trade paperback, Geoff Johns summarizes Tim's unshakeable belief that Bruce is still alive (somewhere) and his methodical quest for clues to his fate.

This leads to a powerful and emotional exchange, in one of Luthor's abandoned labs, between the two best friends as they catch up and swap secrets, not with bombastic outbursts and property-thrashing rampages, but through quiet moments of reflection; a stunning study of true friendship.

Then right at the end of the story we cut to Luthor and Brainiac for the set-up for the next story arc as Luthor decides it's time he claimed what is rightfully his... ie. Superboy!

After the dazzling writing of the main feature, it's a shame that the Legion of Super-Heroes second feature, despite some good character interaction between Polar Boy and Sun Boy, feels like so much filler.

While it's good to read any Legion Of Super-Heroes story in a DC Comic these days, it's a real shame - especially given how the series ended so suddenly - that the Legion doesn't get its own book back. It deserves it, but it's never going to win any new fans, even with Geoff Johns writing it, if it's stuck at the back of Adventure Comics without room to breathe.

Top Of The Pile - Blackest Night - Titans #2

While the majority of the Blackest Night titles (from the main comic to the regular Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps) are heading into zombie survival horror territory - with heroes taking a stand against hordes of the returning dead - the Titans mini-series is one of the few that is really concentrating on the small scale, personal horror aspect of the storyline.

From Donna Troy's dead baby to Garfield Logan's torment at the return of Terra, these are the intimate moments that can become lost in the epic, sweeping space opera of the Blackest Night event.

A degree of this is quite personal to me, as I have said before it was Marv Wolfman's relaunch of the Teen Titans that drew me into American comics in a big way so I was there when Terra died and it was powerful stuff.

So it doesn't take much to get inside Gar's head and have a vague understanding of what he's feeling to see her back from the grave.

That's not to say the whole issue is this kind of soap opera material, there's still big fisticuffs and the collapse of Titans Tower, but the best of the story certainly comes from moments like Donna getting attacked by her zombie baby or Dove facing off against her sister and the original Hawk.

Of course the ending, which sees Donna infected by a zombie bite, is a whole new twist on the Blackest Night mythology that I don't think we've seen elsewhere and I wonder if we will?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Week In Geek...

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

(1) Images From The Future Create Paradox: New BBC five-part sci-fi thriller, Paradox, starting in November sounds a bit like hit US show FlashForward... but with Mel from EastEnders (Tamzin Outhwaite).

(2) So Say We All: Battlestar Galactica may have gone totally off the rails with its bonkers, silly finale, but there's still certain aspects of the show that can hold a cynical ex-fan's attention... as evidenced in the November issue of Maxim, which features an article about the forthcoming TV movie The Plan.

(3) Desperately Seeking T'Pol: Former Vulcan hottie T'Pol, from Star Trek: Enterprise, aka actress Jolene Blalock has landed a recurring role as a baddie in Seas Two of Legend Of The Seeeker.

(4) It's Hammer Time: The new Wizkids' (now owned by NECA) website has gone live, with preview pictures of their debut HeroClix range - Hammer Of Thor.

(5) Serenity Can Be Yours, For A Price: And that price is a recession-mocking $2,495 for the "Big Damn Replica" of the famous spaceship from Joss Whedon's Firefly tv series and Serenity movie.

(6) Still Keeping The Romans At Bay: Plucky little Ancient Gaulish hero Asterix, and his good friend Obelix, are marking their 50th anniversary this month with a new collection of previously unseen comic strip adventures in The Golden Book.

(7) Tartan Lifts Off Again: Cult UK distribution label Tartan - who brought us two of my all-time favourites: A Tale Of Two Sisters and Battle Royale - is reborn as Tartan Palisades.

(8) Boldly Going: The first volume Wil Wheaton's humourous behind-the-scenes memoirs of life on Star Trek: The Next Generation has been published.

(9) Powers To The Pirates: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has always been based on the Tim Powers book of the same name, it has now been revealed.

(10) Dollhouse Still Active: Dollhouse fans can breathe again as DVR numbers have helped lift the show from its rating doldrums, so Fox has agreed to screen all 13 episodes of Season Two.

(11) Is Catwoman His Deadliest Foe? Nan knits giant woollen Superman for grandson! He even has his own Facebook page...

(12) Everybody's Doing It Now: Two hotties from new show Stargate: Universe grace the cover of New York entertainment magazine Steppin' Out to plug their show. Nice to see geek culture getting some mainstream recognition (if only for our babes!)

(13) The Science Behind The Fiction: The BBC takes a quick look at the science behind some science-fiction staples.

(14) Blackest Night Dominates: DC's Blackest Night comics event dominated the September sales figures from Diamond, but Marvel remains the best-selling company.

(15) Megan Is Tops: HeroPress favourite Megan Fox has topped Empire's 100 Sexiest Movie Stars poll, alongside Johnny Depp.

(16) Who's Next On DVD: reveals forthcoming release dates for next run of Doctor Who DVDs in the UK.

Monday, 19 October 2009

An Introduction To Adventures In Time And Space...

Hot on the heels of the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Roleplaying Game character sheet, publishers Cubicle 7 has released a seven-page preview of game's introduction, ahead of the RPG's publication at the end of November.

This small segment of the game clearly sets out in its tone, and whole "what is role-playing" approach, that the game is geared towards attracting new players into our hobby (which is no bad thing, and also, doesn't automatically imply that the system will be too simple for old grognards like myself to have any interest in. Far from it. The simpler the better, I say - within reason.)

Most of the material is a very basic overview of the Universe the players will be operating in, the core concepts of roleplaying and the nature of the characters available to them (pregens of The Doctor and his companions are, apparently, provided - although not here! - but it also makes it clear that you can create your own characters and setting away from the TV show's established format).

There is also some detail about the contents of the game box (e.g. the pregenerated character sheets, some being just "archetypes" that can be used as written with just the addition of a name and background, while others are fully rounded characters from the show, but no indication of any blank sheets) and the other books (Gamesmaster's Guide and Adventures Book), which are for the referee's eyes only .

The piece of text most crucial to those of us looking for real insight into the game is the "example of play", which pretty much confirms earlier rumours that the main game mechanic is a simple "Attribute + Skill + 2d6 against a target number".

Still no clues as to damage resolution, or combat, but I'm sure that's coming.

Those wondering about the extent of Cubicle 7's license for the game might be slightly saddened by the (not surprsing) revelation that it will be concentrating on the adventures of The Doctor from his 9th incarnation onwards - but this teaser for the game clearly states that given the simple nature of the rules it wouldn't take much to create your own versions of the 'Classic Era' material.

Obviously, there remains a mountain of information we have yet to glean about this roleplaying game, its mechanics etc, but what I have seen so far continues to whet my appetite for the full release in just over a month's time.

Planning For The Future...

Graeme Dawson, author of The Doctor Who Miniatures Game (DWMG), has announced that he will be putting on a couple of participation games at next year's Salute, on April 24.

This will be the game's first appearance at a convention.

The two planned scenarios are:

'A Rig Too Far': Euro Sea Gas are in trouble again as the entire crew from one of their 'deep drill' rigs have vanished. The rig is towed back to the remote highland sea lock, Devil's Bay, where UNIT are investigating, led by the Doctor. In the lightening dawn, however, something is rising from the cold dark waters…

'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Daleks': London, 2007. The Army of Ghosts and the Cult of Skaro are attacking Torchwood Tower. Take to the streets as the Preachers, Torchwood, the cops, some opportunistic criminal wideboys, or one of the two metal alien factions. All the fun of the fair with the Doctor, Rose, Mickey, Yvonne and the rest.

Salute 2010 is on Saturday, April 24, at London's ExCel Centre and further details about the DWMG sceneraios will be posted on the game's Facebook Page and on its Yahoo mailing list.

Pictures by Karl Perrotton.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

DVD Of The Week: The Gene Generation (2007)

Going into the low-budget cyberpunk extravaganza, The Gene Generation, starring the stunning but controversial Chinese Playboy model and actress Bai Ling, I was pretty certain the film was going to be "so bad it was good" or there'll be some skin on display from its leading lady.

As it happened, I'm happy to report both were actually true.

Based on a small press comic book series, The DNA Hacker Chronicles, from BloodFire Studios, The Gene Generation is set in a dystopian future city called Olympia, whose rain-soaked, neon-bathed streets and roadside noodle bars give off a definite Blade Runner vibe.

The crime of choice in Olympia is "DNA hacking" (murder by stealing other people's DNA code, using cut-price copies of the original "transcoder", an unstable medical device that this technology was devloped for that soon became a weapon) and Bai Ling is Michelle, a freelance assassin for the government, who hunts down these DNA thieves and fights them in her acrobatic, cartwheeling, pseudo-Matrix-stylee.

There's some complicated exposition about the criminals wanting the DNA of people selected for migration "to the walls of Demeter", but I don't think that's actually important.

In debt to loan sharks, Michelle's feckless brother Jackie (Parry Shen) breaks into Christian's (Alec Newman) flat - a neighbour who happens to be one of the scientists who developed the transcoder - and steals a strange, steampunky glove that happens to be the only remaining original transcoder (although he doesn't know what it is).

Meanwhile top scientist Dr. Josephine Hayden (Faye Dunaway) - the transcoder's first "victim" - and her brothers are desperately searching for the scientist and the gene rewriting gauntlet, to cure her of her mutated condition.

Not sure why a genuine star like Dunaway is in this film (albeit briefly, followed by a bit of voice work), but I can't imagine it's highlighted on her CV.

With Hayden's goons and the loansharks involved in the hunt for Jackie, Christian and Michelle, things naturally snowball out of control and eventually the story degenerates into a mumbling mess of half-hearted body horror and variable CGI.

The special effects in The Gene Generation, like the dialogue, run the spectrum from inspired to downright dreadful, and as with many Z-grade sci-fi the plot drowns in technobabble and unnecessary complications when all we really want to see is some ass kicking and gratuitous nudity from the lovely Ling.

The former comes quite early on, and continues pretty much throughout, but we have to wait for the latter and while it is only fleeting, you have to thank God that that this film isn't in 3D or you might be in danger of losing an eye.

Notorious for flashing her breasts to the paparazzi, Bai Ling is also quite willing to do it for movie cameras as well - much to the delight of her fans - which complements her particular brand of acting.

All the futuristic cyberpunky mumo-jumbo in The Gene Generation is smoke and mirrors to disguise a story that's as old as the hills: cocky kid gets in trouble with loan sharks and his family has to pay.

Like its lead character, The Gene Generation is fine eye candy but lacking any real substance.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Legends Of Steel - Video Review

Like many gamers on the Interwebs, I have a lot of time for Kurt Wiegel and his online Game Geeks reviews, so I was very pleased to see him devote this week's review to the Savage Worlds edition of Legends of Steel, by my good friend, Jeff The Evil DM.

Kurt makes some very salient points about the contents and its suitability to the Savage Worlds system, how "sword and sorcery" games differ from the traditonal Tolkienesque "high fantasy" and the potential for adventure in the example setting provided in Legends Of Steel.

In The Beginning There Was...

It was a British reprint (in green ink, which I remember vividly) in the early '70s of Fantastic Four issue 17 (from a decade earlier) that first introduced my young mind to the concept of superheroes.

As I recall Doctor Doom had captured the Fantastic Four and was holding them in his Latverian castle, but he individually tailored the holding cells to counter/test the specific powers of each member of the group. To my seven or eight-year-old imagination, this was just awesome!

It's safe to say that without this issue there would be no HeroPress today (in any of its manifestations).

I was reminded of all this by last Saturday's episode of Ink! Alter Egos Exposed, Sky Arts' excellent comic book documentary, which flashed up this cover and some of the interior pages, during its piece on the growth and character development of comic book villains.

Ink! continues this evening with an episode on "politics" in comics.

Ladies & Gentlemen, A Toast To...

Just when I thought we might have peaked, HeroPress has gained a new recruit. The latest member of the HeroPress superteam is:

* John L Williams of Rule Of The Dice.

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)


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