Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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

Thursday, 31 March 2011

New Philip Reeve Interview!

Fans of great British author Philip Reeve could do worse than checking out this new interview with the man himself on South African blogger Cristy Zinn's site.

In it Mr Reeve talks about his processes, inspirations and attitudes to criticism.

It's always fascinating to read the thoughts of an author you admire - especially when you are in the middle of his latest masterpiece and not wanting it to end!

Stay On Top Of Third Edition...

Monkey House Games has launched a new section of its forums for discussion of the upcoming Third Edition of Villains & Vigilantes.

On the forum co-author Jeff Dee said: "Now that we’ve started revealing info about the upcoming V&V 3.0, I figure it’s about time to make it official and create a V&V 3.0 discussion forum.

"Also, starting now, all V&V events I run at conventions will be sneak previews of V&V 3.0."

Thor Gets Tasered...

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

I know it's a moment that's played for laughs, but Thor (The God Of Thunder) taken down by a taser, really?

Let's pretend he was still weakened by his crash-landing on Earth... yeah, that's probably it!

Thor arrives in cinemas on May 6.

Knight City Update...

As some of you may have been aware - possibly due to my lack of replies to your comments - Rachel and I have been away for a few days on one of our semi-regular jaunts to Wales (this time to help celebrate Rachel's goddaughter's first birthday).

Combined with the next session of The Tuesday Knights now being only days away, it has meant that little (or no) work has been done at my end on the deep background for our Villains & Vigilantes campaign.

On the positive side Greywulf is working on a couple of renders for me of Nick Law, the commander of The Agents Of COMPASS, while the ever-enthusiastic Paul V Fleming, who designed our campaign's unique character sheets, is working on a map of Knight City for me (from my scrawled, chaotic and illegible notes).

I'm also - once I get a costume concept for The Surgeon - considering commissioning a "group portrait" and I have an artist in mind whose work I've admired on a couple of other blogs I follow (as well as her own).

Steve has just emailed me the first "issue" for my Kokopelli PBeM solo campaign, which is very exciting, and I hope to soon be able to send him the first Watchman issue, although for the moment I am concentrating on firming up my notes for the next issue of the main Agents Of COMPASS game.

This takes place on Monday. Yes, The Tuesday Knights are scheduled to meet on a Monday... what next? Cats and dogs living together? Mass hysteria?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Enjoy The First Five Minutes Of Sucker Punch...

Exclusive - Six Minutes of Sucker Punch. Watch more top selected videos about: 2011, Exclusive

Savour the first five minutes - and a remixed trailer - of Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch before it opens in the UK on Friday.

Despite the near universal critical hammering it appears to have taken in the States, I'm still eager to see it - even if just to enjoy on an eye-candy level.

Share In The Celebrations Of Cubicle 7's Second Anniversary!

Hugely popular British games publisher Cubicle 7 marks its second anniversary as a full-time company on Friday.

In that time it has published over 100 books, been nominated for over 20 awards (including an Origins, about 17 Ennies and a Grog d'or) and won  seven of them and could do with a nice little holiday.

Cubicle 7 is, of course, responsible for Adventures In Time & Space: The Doctor Who RPG; the Primeval; and the forthcoming roleplaying game.Lord Of The Rings RPG - as well as books for Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, FATE etc

And they will soon be responsible for distributing Villains & Vigilantes 2.1 - which I think just demonstrates how cool they are!

To celebrate Cubicle 7 is running a little sale for the next few days... as a "thank you" for their customers' support over the last couple of years.

This includes the 10th Doctor-branded core Doctor Who rules set (plus PDF) for £19.99 or the ICONS core rules (plus PDF) for £13.50 among the 116 products on sale.

Being Funny For Money...

The recently released second edition of Comedy Writing Secrets, by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz, is on sale, in e-book format, for just $1.99 until April 1 - to celebrate April Fools' Day.

With the distinction of being the only handbook for comic writers for over a decade, Comedy Writing Secret, 2nd edition is just the book aspiring comedians need to get a leg up on the competition.

Laugh yourself to a career.

Published by
Writers Digest, a division F+W Media, Inc., the 352-page Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition (US $17.99 (CAN $19.99) is the updated version of the best-selling favorite that will teach you how to be funny and make a living out of it.

Author Mel Helitzer, whom Rolling Stone calls ‘the funniest professor in the country’ and funny man Mark Shatz have updated their latest edition to include:

  • Comedy writing from edgy comedians, such as Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Tina Fey.
  • A complete spectrum of techniques, from writing one-liners and stand-up routines, to finding a market for your work.
  • Step-by-step writing exercises accompanied with sample answers, so readers can practice and hone their skills.
  • Insights into the demand of the comedy market.
About the Authors: Mel Helitzer is an award-winning journalism professor who has written material for stars such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Art Linkletter, and Shari Lewis, as well as for the award-winning ABC musical comedy The Cowboy & The Tiger. Mark Shatz is a professor of psychology and teaches humor writing.            

First Full Length Trailer For New Doctor Who...

The first full length trailer for the new season of Doctor Who (which begins at Easter) looks very promising...

All I can add is: Lily Cole + Amy Pond = redhead overload!!!

COMPETITION: Fantasy Gaming Tables...

PRESS RELEASE: Fight On! and Magician's Manse are Proud to Announce...

A Contest for Fantasy Gaming Tables!

Entry Deadline: May 31, 2011
Send your random tables via email with the header TABLES to tombowings at gmail dot com!

Rules: Maximum three tables per entrant, OR two tables per entrant if either or both of them are 'multiple tables' tables (e.g. a connected set of dungeon or wilderness tables).

For some gamers, there is nothing – not even a good ruleset – that beats a good collection of random tables. So we've decided to run a contest to put one together!

By submitting your table, you give us permission to re-print that table in the upcoming Fight On! Big Book of Tables (or whatever we eventually decide to call it). You continue to own your own table and all rights to it other than our right to publish it in various iterations of that book and may re-use or re-publish it elsewhere as you see fit. Likewise, tables you have already published elsewhere may be submitted to this contest so long as you still have the rights to them to give to us to publish in this way.

We are looking for overall quality, game-usability, creativity, better mousetraps, and/or gonzo! Our judges include S. John Ross, Jeff Rients, Tim Kask, Paul Czege, and Ian Burns, as well as Ignatius Umlaut of Fight On!


Grand Prize: 1 Roll on the Gold Table, 1 Roll on the Gems & Jewelry Table, 1 Roll on the Magic Items Table, a Trade Paperback Copy of Roll the Bones, and a set of Dwarven Metal Dice provided by DEI Games (

Second Prize: 1 Roll on the Gold Table, 1 Roll on the Gems & Jewelry Table, and 1 Roll on the Magic Items Table

Third Prize: 1 Roll on each of any Two Different Tables Below (your pick)

First Honorable Mention: 1 Roll on the Gems and Jewelry Table or the Magic Table (your pick).

Honorable Mention: All honorable mentions and all prizewinners above will receive a free PDF copy of the Fight On! Big Book of Tables (when it comes out) and a free PDF of a randomly determined issue of Fight On! magazine! And we intend to give Honorable Mention to ALL submitted tables meant for eventual inclusion in the Big Book of Tables, so there will be a lot of these prizes to go around!

All product prizes below are provided by Fight On! and do not represent the endorsement of or cooperation with the authors, publishers, or manufacturers of said products, although we like them all and think they're cool guys.

Gold Table (d100):
  • 01-25 $25
  • 26-50 $50
  • 51-75 $75
  • 76-95 $100
  • 96-99 $250
  • 00 $500
Gems & Jewelry Table (d100) – only one of each, rolled in order of prize received:
  • 01-30 About 30 or so mostly unpainted old-time Grenadier minis, mostly from the Dungeon Explorers and Tomb of Spells Sets
  • 31-40 Beautifully Painted Owlbear, Otyugh, and Ogre Mage Minis (sculptor unknown, but I think they're old-tyme)
  • 41-50 Provocatively Painted Marilith and Succubus (Marilith is Reaper, not sure about Succubus)
  • 51-60 Battle Scene 1: 4 Beautifully Painted Crocodile Games Wargods of Hyperborea Wendigo (Yeti) Warriors versus 6 Well Painted Privateer Press Hordes Everblight Archers and Swordsmen
  • 61-70 Battle Scene 2: 4 Excellently Painted Tom Meier Thunderbolt Mountain Elves on Foot versus 4 Excellently Painted Tom Meier Thunderbolt Mountain Orcs
  • 71-75 Battle Scene 3: 3 Excellently Painted Tom Meier Thunderbolt Mountain Elves on Horseback versus 3 Excellently Painted Emperor's Choice Miniatures Goblin Grey Knights Mounted on Air Sharks
  • 76-85 Against the Giants 1: Exceptionally Painted Otherworld Miniatures Hill Giant and Stone Giant
  • 86-95 Against the Giants 2: Well Painted Ral Partha Frost Giant and Cave Giant
  • 96-99 Random Dwarven Forge Custom Dungeon Piece: 1 Wall of Fire Short Passage, 2 Moss & Fungus L-Shaped Passage with Mushroom, 3 4x6 Cerberus Fountain Floor Piece, 4 Room Corner with Banner and Crystal Ball. (May reroll if you don't use DF.)
  • 00 Beautifully Painted Complete Ral Partha Wasteland Raider Set
Magic Items Table (d100) – all are physical print copies:
  • 01-03 $50 donation to Friends of Starship Warden in your name
  • 04-06 Apocalypse World
  • 07-09 Arduin: World of Khaas Worldbook (First Hardback Printing, OOP)
  • 10-12 Backswords & Bucklers AND Ruins & Ronin
  • 13-15 Book of Ebon Bindings
  • 16-18 B/X Companion
  • 19-21 Carcosa
  • 22-24 Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent
  • 25-27 Dragons at Dawn
  • 28-30 Drowning and Falling AND Elfs
  • 31-33 Dungeon Alphabet
  • 34-36 Empire of the Petal Throne (HOG Reproduction)
  • 37-39 Encounter Critical
  • 40-42 Exquisite Corpses
  • 43-45 Fight On! Magazine, 1d6 Randomly Determined Print Issues
  • 46-48 Grinding Gear AND Weird New World
  • 49-51 How to Host a Dungeon
  • 52-54 Inferno: 1980
  • 55-57 Majestic Wilderlands
  • 58-60 Miscellaneum of Cinder AND Ye Olde Book of Spells
  • 61-63 Mutant Future
  • 64-66 My Life with Master
  • 67-69 Mythmere's Adventure Design Deskbook I and II
  • 70-72 Necropolis (Necromancer Edition), autographed by Gary Gygax, slightly used
  • 73-75 Petty Gods (if it is out, otherwise Cursed Chateau)
  • 76-78 Realm of Crawling Chaos
  • 79-81 Secret of Smuggler's Cove AND Skull Mountain
  • 82-84 Sorcery & Super Science
  • 85-87 Spellcraft & Swordplay
  • 88-90 Stonehell Dungeon
  • 91-00 Trade paperback copy of Roll the Bones AND Roll Again, ignoring results of 91-00
So what are you waiting for? Let's see your tables!

The Best '80s RPG Adverts?

Further to my previous posts about the brilliant Villains & Vigilantes adverts, from back in the day, I present two more from the pages of sorely missed Dragon magazine -

Kali, a first level supervillainess from Jeff Dee, dated 1984, and (below) Magnetor, another Jeff Dee character, from 1981... and a good guy!


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

For Those WHO Missed It...

The prequel to the first episode (The Impossible Astronaut) of the new season of Doctor Who, which commences on Easter Saturday...

Despite the generally disappointing storylines of the last season (even though Matt, Karen and Arthur rank as one of my favourite TARDIS crews of all time), what I've seen and read about this year's season makes me slightly more optimistic (although, to be fair, I was highly optimistic going into last year's fairytale nonsense...).

The Impossible Astronaut is already looking as though it is probably pulled from Steven Moffat's nightmare drawer, where he found the legendary episode Blink.

DVD Of The Week: Hatchet (2007)

Before he made Sexy Nightmare Slayers, Adam Green first became a big name in geeky households through his wonderfully OTT homage to old school slasher horror, Hatchet.

A simple set-up sees a gaggle of potential victims stranded at night in the Louisiana swamps when their "ghost tour" boat runs aground.

Lost, cold and wet they soon discover they are not alone and that the area's mythical bogeyman, Victor Crowley (Kane 'Jason Voorhees' Hodder), is after their blood.

Taking the best of the supernatural slasher genre and blending in some almost Scooby Doo-like humour - along with the requisite quotient of boobs and blood - Green drowns his audience in Grand Guignol levels of gore and mutilation that are so far fetched as to be shockingly humourous.

As much a comedy as a horror film, Hatchet is pure entertainment for horror groupies. It has no deep message or hidden subtext; it just aims to shock and amuse in equal measure by balancing each moment of graphic violence with a cheesy joke, witty one-liner or amusing pratfall.

Emphasising the movie's role as a loving, but light-hearted, homage to movies like Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Halloween, Candyman etc we are teased with all too brief cameos by the iconic Tony Todd and Robert Englund.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans (well, the males anyway) will also be delighted to know that Mercedes McNab (aka Harmony Kendall) not only has a large role in this as aspiring softcore porn actress Misty, but also spends at least a third of her time on camera topless.

Yes, it's that sort of film!

There's not enough originality in the personality of Victor Crowley - a Jason Voorhees-like mutant child bullied by his peers then accidentally set alight during a Halloween prank (viz. The Burning), who comes back "from the dead" (Freddy et al) with the powers of superhuman strength and indestructibility (Jason again) and a desire for revenge against mankind - but I don't think that's the point.

For me Green is simply trying to reclaim the genre, take it back to a halcyon age - but with a 21st Century budget and effects - to prevent its continued Twilightification. He's making "horror" truly "horrible" again, reclaiming the genre prerogative of  making the antagonist the audience draw, but without sinking to the sickening depths of the torture porn sub-genre.

Even the ending, while by no means original, is still perfectly in-keeping with the old school vibe of the piece... and obviously left the barn door open for last year's Hatchet 2!

Too Many Books, Too Little Time...

The arrival. at HeroPress Towers, of Philip Reeve's latest novel - Scrivener's Moon - has temporarily curtailed my ambition to finish reading A Game Of Thrones before the TV adaptation begins on HBO (Sky Atlantic over here) next month.

These are two mighty books, both of which I have enjoyed to date but they've created a bit of a log-jam in my reading list for 2011. Part of my New Year's Resolution was to read more and I'm pleased to say I've been getting through books at a quite impressive rate so far this year (well, by my recent standards anyway).

And this doesn't factor in my fortnightly comic book delivery or my love of graphic novels/trade paperback collections etc - and so a backlog is developing as my unread comic pile grows while I concentrate on reading "real books".

I've also decided to try and put a moratorium on buying new books, but that's easier said than done thanks to the infinite shop window that is the Internet.

Every time I spend more than a couple of minutes online I spot a new book that I know I really must read... totally overlooking the fact that reading takes time and our time on this planet is finite!

Therefore, as I've said before, discipline requires lists and I'm good at lists (sticking to them is another matter), so, I present - as much for my own benefit as for your interest - my (current) reading list for 2011 (in no particular order) that will kick in after I finish the 800-pages of A Game Of Thrones...

  • Dracula's Guest - a collection of classic, Victorian vampire tales from a variety of sources.
  • Legend Tripping - This was going to be a new hobby for Paul and I, investigating urban myths.
  • Unsolved Murders In Victorian & Edwardian London - does what it says on the tin.
  • Memories Of The Future - Wil Wheaton's recollections of working on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The Mole People - a slightly urban mythy examination of homeless communities in the tunnel systems under New York.
  • The Kingdom Of Agarttha and The Book Of Earths - loony hollow earth stuff.
  • Legends Of The Ferengi, The Holograms Handbook and Captain Proton - Star Trek books about my favourite aliens (the Ferengi), one of my favourite characters (the EMH from Voyager) and a faux pulp novel about Tom Paris's holonovel adventures.
  • Sentinels: A Distant Star - the next in Van Allen Plexico's superhero novel series.
  • Dead To The World - the next in Charlaine Harris' trashy Southern Gothic vampire series (these are so dreadful - yet perversely addictive - compared to the awesomeness of True Blood, which they inspired, that the two incarnations of this universe become increasingly distant with each new episode of the TV show).
  • The White Darkness - recommended to me by Philip Reeve.
  • Hello America - a post-apocalyptic tale from JG Ballard.
  • Spartacus - historical fiction about the slave revolt.
  • Planet X - An official Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover novel with The X-Men! Simply too bizarre a concept to pass up...
  • Masked - an anthology of superhero short stories, including pieces by Bill Willingham, Gail Simone and Paul Cornell.
  • Marvel Comics Guide To New York City - just because I love Marvel comics!
  • A Clash Of Kings - the sequel to A Game Of Thrones
Even now I realise that this is a slightly ambitious list and the chances of me actually reading all of these is quite slim, but it's always better to have something to aim for than to simply flail around without direction and purpose.

"Captain America, I Command You To..."

Unfortunate Dialogue/Sound Effect Combination Of The Day...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Six Of The Best With THOMAS NEWMAN

Thomas Newman is an inspirational indie filmmaker who has recently completed his first feature-length film Bong Of The Dead, which he wrote/produced/directed and edited (on his own in his basement studio)... for $5,000!

He has spent over two years, in post-production, compositing over 350 shots by hand; learning new software as he went along, even though he had no formal training.

Before his Six Of The Best interview, Thomas told HeroPress: "For over two years I pushed myself to physical and mental limits in order to prove that I can make a film for such a low cost with high quality."

The make-up in the film was created by Thomas' close friend Mike Fields who was one of the key make-up gurus on such films as The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian as well as successful TV series Masters Of Horror

(1) Can you explain your journey from Best Buy worker to one-man film auteur?

Thomas Newman
I've been trying to break into the film industry on a higher level for some time now.

I'm not just interested in working in the film industry because I've done that and I know I want more. I want to establish myself as a producer/director who can make movies and who can deliver.

When I first completed my film and went into post production I was still taking on gigs in the local film industry just to pay bills and keep working on my movie.

After a while of doing that I decided to stop taking gigs and go full speed ahead on the post process in order to finish in a timely manner that I was pleased with.

I know a lot of filmmakers who boast about taking upwards of five to 10 years to finish their dream piece. I did not want to be one of those filmmakers!

I want to make it now so that I can start doing more films right away in the coming years. Of course going solid for two years without taking on work had its advantages for the film but it also had its financial disadvantages as well of course.

My debt and bills began to climb as I stayed home in my basement editing while my wife supported us with her waitressing job at a local restaurant. In the end I had no choice but to get a job at Best Buy to help relieve the financial stress. 

It was just a means of survival in order to allow  working on my movie with less stress from bill collectors. I even took on a side job cleaning toilets at a local martial arts gym just to keep going. There's no shame in that if you ask me. At the end of the day I made all the sacrifices I possibly could and still do to this date just to get this film out there.

(2) Why zombies?

There are several different reasons why I chose the zombie genre actually.

The first reason was because my good friend and co-producer Mike Fields happened to have a shed full of hundreds of zombie bits and pieces which he had no plans for, so I claimed them!

Any smart producer will tell you that if you can get it for free then take it while the offer stands!

I remember it took several truck loads just to get it all out of his place and into mine to prepare for the filming.

The second reason is because I love zombies! I mean who doesn't?? 

Which brings me to the third reason and that is because there is a huge market for zombie films. It's the only genre that never dies! I wanted to do something that I knew would attract people and want them to get involved.

(3) Out of the genre's rich back catalogue, which movies inspired you the most?

I've always appreciated the classic B-Horror films like any other film nut. The ones that influenced me to do this movie are a variety of films and directors starting with Kubriks 2001, then to A Clockwork Orange, then Night, Dawn, Shaun and Return of the Living Dead. Also a little of The Exorcist for creepy factor.

Of course my idols Tarantino and Rodriguez and their rebirth to the Grind House cinema style right back to Peter Jackson's Dead Alive then back over to James Cameron's Terminator. I put a piece of everything I've ever loved in movies and a lot of myself into my first film.

(4) How would you answer critics who suggest that by making the heroes stoners you are glorifying illegal drug use?

I think critics can say whatever they want about any movie and it's just their opinion at the end of the day. I always ask if critics know so much about movies then how come they don't make movies themselves?

Also if they want to criticize me for having heroes who smoke pot then they might as well criticize every film which has alcohol or sex in it.

At the end of the day I went with the things I thought related to me as well as a wide audience and put them in my movie.

It's important to stick with what you know  when you set out to make a movie, especially your first one. I know I loved Cheech and Chong films growing up and I know the combination of pot and zombies hadn't been combined in the way I did in Bong Of The Dead so it had to work.

I could've taken the cliché route of weed that turns people into zombies but that was not interesting enough for me. I just like the idea of two stoner buddies  learning to make the best out of a bad situation. 

(5) What are your current plans for Bong Of The Dead and how are they progressing?

The funny thing is even though I am at the phase of distribution I find myself still in post production re-editng audio for foreign distribution because they need the actors' dialogue separated from the sound effects and music.

I'm still designing new posters for various parts of the world and I'm cutting a new third trailer as we speak.

I'm also working around the clock with my Web PR Rep who does all my online marketing for the film and helping get the word out.

It's amazing what the Internet has done for independent filmmakers like myself. We are so lucky to have technology at our fingertips the way we do.

I will be doing the film festival circuits as well, trying to build up an audience base there.

I've also hired a Sales Agent who will be shopping the film all over the world introducing it to global and domestic markets as well.

(6) Have you had a chance to think about the future, and, if so, what are your hopes and ambitions? Where would you like Bong Of The Dead to take you?

The funny thing is I rarely live in the present! I'm always thinking with the future in mind and have my focus set on moving to LA and making more movies.

The plan I have in place for myself is to use BOTD as a calling card to get the attention of Hollywood studios and land that "studio deal" as they call it.

I think thats every film maker's dream to get noticed and offered the next great film or at least get paid to direct.

I will say though that I am approaching it with a "no BS this is who I am take-it-or-leave-it" type of attitude. I want that studio deal but I will fight to maintain as much control creatively as  I can. I think other filmmakers who have walked where I have before me know the pain and suffering we go though trying to make our dreams come true.

At the end of the day I hope that can be appreciated and respected by the big guys and hopefully they harness the drive without suffocating the filmmaker.

I'm that Rodriguez type of director who likes holding the camera in his own hands for the shots and who likes editing in his own basement. Heck, if my idol Robert Rodriguez has been able to do it then so can I. Bong Of The Dead is my El Mariachi.

I've been told all too many times by people who are not visionaries or dreamers that it's not possible to achieve what I wanted to. I was told that my idea was too ambitious which made me laugh quite honestly.

How can you not be ambitious about your dreams? Without ambition you can't dream It's almost the fuel that dreams need in order to create the drive to set forth the dream. It's all part of the dream machine and it's all important in order to succeed.

Star Wars Vs Star Trek...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Knight City Round-Up Of The Week...

Dunwich Asylum For The Criminally Insane
This week over on my Knight City blog, it's been all about expanding the background that the superheroes have to game in.

Rather than giving overviews of the city's 13 boroughs straight away, I started with some of the particular areas of interest:

  • Miskatonic University: This is where John Longbear (the alter-ego of my GMPC Kokopelli) studies. The entry also introduces the idea that that the fictional Knight City served as a source of inspiration to 1920's cult horror writer HP Lovecraft (many of his characters are named after buildings here, for instance) - although this Miskatonic is generally far more modern, and less creepy, than the one imagined in Lovecraft's tales of cosmic horror.
  • Dunwich Asylum For The Criminally Insane: More Lovecraft influence is evident here, but also - obviously - Batman's Arkham Asylum. Located on Keech Island in Knight City's Dyer Bay, the asylum is the subject of much gossip and rumour-mongering in the city as access is very tightly controlled. This maximum security facility serves as a rehabilitation centre for so-called supervillains as well as caring for the more run-of-the-mill psychotic and dangerous elements of society.
Behind-the-scenes I'm still chasing the players to dot some "i"s and cross some "t"s on their characters, although I realise they have all exceptionally busy with this pesky thing called "real life" - and to top it off one has been for a job interview and another has been very ill.

Steve and I are also hammering out the details for a play-by-email element that will allow my GMPC to have some solo adventures as well as me running some storylines for Steve's own character when he is unable to make the table-meetings.

I'm also mulling over such oddities as the "mini-game"/"rules subset" idea I had for developing Broadway musicals based on successful characters. It's currently looking like a flowchart taking the form of a series of random tables.

This, though, will only come into play once characters hit 10th level - as, as far as I am aware, the only characters in our world to have Broadway musicals based on them are Spider-Man and Superman. And neither of these were great successes!

Captain Awesome...

A marvelous cartoon from The Animation Workshop, of Denmark. Comic book superhero Captain Awesome finds his day of crime-fighting, world-saving and general good deeds undermined by a dose of food poisoning...

Captain Awesome from The Animation Workshop on Vimeo.

European toilet humour at its finest (you have been warned).

Friday, 25 March 2011

Review Round-Up (Horror Movie Special): Slumber Party Massacre; The Burning; Evil Toons

The other week was Paul's birthday and he'd asked for a selection of old, B-movie horror DVDs. So I raided Amazon's bargain basement and when Paul came to visit last Friday we sat down and enjoyed/endured...

Slumber Party Massacre (1982): it's not long into this awful 1982 splatter slasher flick that you realise Slumber Party Massacre is rapidly heading into the category of "so bad it's good". Although, to be honest, it's mainly just bad.

After some wonderfully gratuitous nudity in the opening moments, it is quickly established that a mass murderer has escaped from prison on the same day that a gaggle of unappealing (supposedly 18-year-old) schoolgirls decide to throw a slumber party.

After a bit of random slaying, the killer Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) targets the girls' party for no reason except that it serves the story - as he is a totally void personality, bereft of any character or motivation - and Slumber Party Massacre becomes a slightly tedious, and unintentionally very amusing, combination of "spam-in-a-cabin" and "home invasion horror".

There is no suggestion of the "rules" of slasher films or even a hint that the killer has some kind of supernatural undertone - which is what makes slasher films interesting to me. Slumber Party Massacre is simply an all-too-human psychopath randomly attacking some boring girls and, eventually, them fighting back - which is barely enough story to fill out the movie's 77-minute brevity.

An exercise in excess, undermined by our lack of empathy for the victims or understanding of the antagonist, the film is further hobbled by its poor transfer to DVD which retains all the scratches and faults of its VHS source material. Perhaps this is supposed to add to the old school horror vibe, but it only highlighted how dated the film felt.

The Burning (1981): This is heading more towards traditional slasher territory. The Burning is the story of Cropsy (Lou David), a summer camp groundskeeper who was hideously burned during a thoughtless prank by a gang of cruel children.

He then returns, years later, after extensive surgery and begins a campaign of terror and violence against a summer camp where those involved in his mutilation are now working as counselors.

It certainly does a better job of "sticking to the rules" than Slumber Party Massacre, even if Cropsy first kills a random prostitute (for practice, I guess?) before heading to the countryside to wreak bloody vengeance.

There are some gruesomely inventive set-pieces and urban mythic qualities to The Burning, but what made this film stand out for me was the extreme lengths writer/director Tony Maylam takes to delay the eventual bloodshed and carnage. The tension mounts to almost unbearable levels as red herrings and distractions keep the kids breathing just that bit longer.

Again, as with the earlier film, the effects are somewhat dated now, but a better story and a generally better made movie - as well as the required servings of boobs and blood - help paper over these shortcomings.

Evil Toons (1992): Despite Rachel calling this the "worst film" she'd ever seen (she came home from work half-way through and stayed for the rest of the movie), the schlockfest that is Evil Toons has a special place in my heart.

Not only did I review it for our local paper when it was first released on VHS, but it even merited a mention in my university dissertation about the role of women in trash cinema... and also features an all-too brief cameo by the stunning Michelle Bauer (star of the infamous Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers).

A horror-comedy - with a ridiculously large quota of boobage on display and OTT sound effects - this is the simple story of a gaggle of hot babes (students at Lovecraft's Miskatonic University if you listen carefully!) hired to clean-up an abandoned mansion who release a demonic "cartoon" from an ancient tome. The demon quickly kills one of the girls and takes her - topless - form and hilarity ensues.

This is beer-and-pizza, braindead, slapstick, low-brow entertainment at its finest with a plot that doesn't really make sense used as a flimsy excuse to dress attractive women in flimsy outfits and have them running around for an hour-and-a-half.

This is not the sort of film you watch by accident, the DVD cover alone should tell you what to expect, so there's no excuse for coming away from Evil Toons disappointed. A true masterpiece of harmless nonsense from Fred Olen Ray, with deliriously silly performances from Dick Miller (including a great in-joke where his character is watching an old Dick Miller movie) and David Carradine.

An Early Taste Of Easter...

The Eleventh Doctor's adventures resume on BBC1 on Easter Saturday with The Impossible Astronaut, but before that there's an online prequel today (from 4pm on the BBc's Doctor Who website), which is teased below...

Fleamarket Friday: Are You Ready For Freddy?

I love the Nightmare On Elm Street movies and I love action figures, so these new Freddy figures from NECA (unveiled at last month's Toy Fair 2011) should be a shoo-in for boosting my collection... but I think they might be a bit of a hard sell to Rachel!

These gruesome gifts are detailed in all their glory over on Dread Central.Com

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Borgias Are Back In Business!

Along with I, Claudius, the 1981 TV production of The Borgias helped cement my passion for bloody, sexy pseudo-historical drama and - with The Tudors soon wrapping up on the BBC - this latest incarnation of the religion-as-organised-crime historical romp was brought to my attention by Calvin's Canadian Cave Of Cool.

Starring Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia this new Showtime original series is "coming soon"... and there's already a slot reserved for it on our Sky+ box.

Prelude To Hell...

The mighty Clive Barker has penned a gruesome 14-page prelude to the new Hellraiser comic, published by Boom! Studios yesterday, which is available for you to download here - courtesy of those nice souls at Bleeding Cool.

Beware! This is hardcore Barker so expect some graphic imagery from Leonardo Manco!

Meanwhile, Fearnet has a preview of the first five pages of issue one which can be read here.

A Shot Of V To Get You In The Mood...

Season Two of V commences on SyFy (in the UK) this evening, so here's a quick reminder of what happened last season and (below) a promo for this season:

However, before you get too attached... those of us who are sticking with this because of our love of the original '80s show should perhaps be reminded - by this spoilerific, but well-argued, article on io9 - of why the original series worked and this one, unfortunately, doesn't quite.

The First Proper Captain America Trailer...

And now this...

I'm finding the "skinny" Steve Rogers - with Chris Evans' head - slightly freaky, but this trailer does look as though the film delivers the goods... even if not the Nazis!

Nice touch with Howard Stark (Tony's dad) throwing the lever to fire up the super soldier machine - wonder what other Marvel Universe Easter Eggs are hidden in the movie?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Better Living Through Chemistry...

See Chris Evans transform into a walkin', talkin', shield-slingin' Charles Atlas muscle-building advert - thanks to the "super soldier" program - in this segment from Entertainment Tonight promoting the Captain America movie.

Soon The Game Begins...

Lots of exciting new footage and a real sense of the story - for those who haven't read the source material yet - in this latest Game Of Thrones trailer.

Super-Artists Sought!

art by Tod Allen Smith
Artists are being sought for the forthcoming Villains & Vigilantes card game, a spin-off from the popular roleplaying game.

Ben Swainbank, of Superhuman Games, which is producing the card game later this year through an exclusive licensing arrangement from Monkey House Games, has put out a call on deviantART saying: "We are looking for artists interested in drawing the heroes and supervillains of V&V in action and having their work printed on cards in the game.

"We are not offering upfront payment but we are only seeking publication rights to the works created for the game. You, the artist would retain rights to the original work.

"For submission guidelines or more information contact Please include an attachment or a link to a sample of your work

For more information about the card game visit the Superhuman Games website.

Some Kind Of Record...

May I crave your indulgence for a brief moment, simply to draw attention to the fact that is my HUNDREDTH post this month! And it's just about how this is my 100th blog entry in March... good value for money, eh?

I now return you to normal service...

Calling Chicken Little, The Sky Is Falling...

Could Steven Spielberg's Falling Skies series be the new V that "new V" isn't?

Guess our American cousins will find out in June...

Of course, we've still got the start of the second season of 21st Century V to satisfy our "alien invasion" cravings this week - which is certainly better than nothing!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

DVD Of The Week: Dark Days (2000)

One of the many amazing aspects of roleplaying games is the incredible, often tangential, areas that they can take you when you are researching your latest project.

As some of you may know I'm currently developing a fictional, contemporary American city for Villains & Vigilantes comic book superheroes campaign and I wanted to explore the idea of homeless communities living in tunnels under the city.

For quite some time I've had, sitting on my bookshelf sadly unread, Jennifer Toth's The Mole People about life in the tunnels beneath New York City, but then the other day I discovered the award-winning documentary Dark Days, by Marc Singer, that covers similar ground.

The black-and-white movie follows the lives of a handful of underground dwellers, many of them crack-addicts, who have built a village of secure, make-shift huts in the tunnels under Penn Station.

They survive by scavenging food from trash and selling on items they find left out on the streets that they have no use for. While they may shower under cracked water pipes, they have electricity in their homes, some have portable TVs, heaters, fridges, stoves etc but it's still about as far from a comfortable or easy life as you can imagine.

They make the best of their situation but, as we later discover, none would choose this lifestyle if given the choice.

The few who talk about their past have suffered horrendous losses that have driven them into drug addiction, from where they have sunk into a hand-to-mouth existence that has eventually led them to their current subsistence living in the tunnels.

The 18-certificate is there for the strong language and occasional scenes of drug use (mainly crack smoking), but that is a part of this life - a contributing factor in many cases - and so it's right not to cover it up or pretend it doesn't go on.

However, the 85-minute documentary takes an unexpected turn about an hour in when Amtrak threatens the community with eviction.

Documentary maker Singer, and photographer Margaret Morton went to the Coalition for the Homeless to seek help for the people they had befriended and eventually managed to secure housing vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the film's subjects, which enabled them to move out of the tunnels and into their own apartments.

It's rare to find one of these harrowing, honest documentaries about people who have slipped through the cracks of society that has a positive, optimistic ending and, although sadly in the "life after the tunnel" text pieces in the extras we learn that three have subsequently passed away, the majority of those featured do manage to move on from this dark, subterranean period of their life.

There is no attempt to glorify or romanticise this existence among the rats and garbage, it is presented as a stark illustration of the result of certain life choices and, speaking at the end of the movie, none look back at their time underground through rose-tinted glasses. They are glad to be out of there.

More information on the background to the documentary can be found on its Wikipedia page, as its official page appears to have expired, and supplementary details about the area where it was shot can be found here.

Happy 80th Birthday, Captain Kirk!

The living legend that is William 'The Shat' Shatner, the greatest star ship captain of all time, turns 80 today; can you believe it?

The Enterprise's science officer Mr Spock aka Leonard Nimoy hits the same amazing milestone on Saturday.

HeroPress salutes these two Star Trek icons!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Tonight's The Night For Fighting...

Doctor Who Back On Target...

The success of the revamped Doctor Who series has finally led the BBC to look at republishing some of the wildly popular Target novelisations of the original, classic stories.

In their day - before the era of VHS, nostalgia satellite channels or the Internet - the Target books were the only way for fans to relive the television adventures once they had been shown.

According to the Doctor Who News Page: "The series kicks off with six novelisations, using their original cover designs by artist Chris Achilleos and inside illustrations, with a new introduction especially written for each book by a well-known Doctor Who fan/writer."

The first reissue will be Doctor Who And The Daleks, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, on July 1, along with Doctor Who And The Crusaders; Doctor Who And The Cybermen; Doctor Who And The Abominable Snowmen; Doctor Who And The Auton Invasion; and Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters.

Covering two stories apiece from the first three Doctors, all of these paperback books are available for pre-order through The HeroPress Store.

At The Fleapit: Black Swan (2010)

Back when I was a reporter - and film critic - for our local paper, I used to go to the cinema at least once a week (albeit for free most of the time), but this year it's taken until mid-March to drag my sorry arse out to see a film "in the wild".

Last week, I took Rachel to see Black Swan at a one-off screening at Tonbridge's Angel Centre, a council-run sports facility that coverts a room for movie screening every now and again.

And what a contrast it was to our nearby grottiplex!

Not only were the staff friendly and helpful ("Don't worry, we won't start the movie until everyone's in"), but the film even had an intermission for people to buy ice creams and drinks or make much-needed toilet visits.

A dark, modern fairy tale, Black Swan, itself, is a stunning piece of art. A powerful and intense study of obsession and madness that focuses on Natalie Portman's Nina Sayers, a driven and uptight New York ballerina who wins the lead role - of the Swan Queen - in a production of Swan Lake.

For those of us who didn't actually know - and it's explained a couple of times - Swan Lake is the story of a young girl magically transformed into a White Swan who can only be saved by love. Unfortunately the prince she falls for is seduced by her evil twin, the Black Swan, and she ends up killing herself.

Darren Aronofsky's magnificent movie has Nina Sayers so determined to give the "perfect" performance that she finds herself "becoming" the character in shocking and disturbing ways.

Nina clearly has issues anyway, with a history of self-harm and an overbearing single mother (Barbara Hershey) who abandoned her own ballet career to give birth - and therefore carries the joint burden of resentment and a desire to live out her unfulfilled dreams through her daughter.

While the show's director freely admits Nina is ideal as the "white swan", he has reservations about her ability to also portray the evil "black swan" and encourages her to loosen up through a variety of unorthodox techniques.

There's enough "body horror" to satisfy David Cronenberg fans, while the "in-your-face" camera work and grainy film stock gives Black Swan the cinéma vérité feel of a "behind-the-scenes" documentary on the hard life of professional ballet dancers.

Sexually graphic in places as well, although you never actually see anything very little is left to the imagination, the film makes its audience uncomfortable and complicit in the unfolding psychodrama until you don't know what's real and what's imagined as pictures become animated, faces morph into self-reflections and Nina's body starts to undergo bizarre transformations of its own.

The film (I think) is a statement on the duality of the soul and, aided by an intelligent use of motifs, examines the idea of metaphor made flesh as Nina's life begins to mirror her role in the ballet production.

Aronofsky has brought out career-defining, engrossing and convincing performances from his cast.

Portman - who is onscreen for almost every scene - is sublime; this is the talented young actress we remember from Leon rather than the Star Wars Prequels.

But she is also supported by a  flawless cast: Mila Kunis, as Nina's only friend but also imagined rival, is a revelation while Vincent Cassel as the show director is enigmatically unreadable. Winona Ryder, the outgoing lead dancer Beth, although only in the film for a short while, is equally superb and memorable.

A truly unique film, Black Swan rightfully earned Portman her Oscar and will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Musical Monday: Melancholy Stormtroopers...

Indie band Scattered Trees have the Force with them in this video for their song Love and Leave. A group of Imperial stormtroopers have captured a hot alien princess, but unfortunately one of them falls for her and wackiness ensues...

Directed by J.M. Harper.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Knight City Round-Up For The Week...

Activity continues apace with the development of my Knight City campaign, even though we are in the inevitable lull between monthly gaming sessions.

To help cope with that, Steve (who probably won't be able to attend meetings of The Tuesday Knights regularly, due to work commitments) has suggested a "play-by-email" addition to the campaign (harking back to HeroPress's roots as a play-by-mail game in the '80s).

The idea would be that I'd run solo adventures for his character, The Watchman, and he'd run adventures for my GMPC, Kokopelli. We haven't finalised details, but this will be a good way, also, to interact with other NPC heroes and expand the number of "good guys" in Knight City... as well as the campaign's rogue's gallery of supervillains).

This week's Knight City articles included:
  • Nick Law Speaks: a short quote on the working relationship between C.O.M.P.A.S.S. and C.H.E.S.S. (the main law enforcement agency dealing with supervillains in the V&V universe).
  • Knight City's Original Punk Rockers: The city has long carried the nickname of 'Sonic City' for its role in the rise of the American punk movement and this piece lookes at background details on the most famous band to surface in that turbulent period.
  • Coming Attractions: Teasers for the next three adventures I have planned for The Agents Of C.O.M.P.A.S.S.
This week also saw me pen a trio of "behind the scenes" features, here on HeroPress, about mechanical ideas I've been kicking around for the campaign:
  • Superheroes Don't Get Oscars, They Get Action Figures: a new rule for dealing with the heroes depiction in action figure format; a formula for calculating how "accurate" the portrayal is.
  • Brains To Back Up Brawn: as The Agents Of C.O.M.P.A.S.S. are largely science-based characters, it got me to wondering just how their high Intelligence scores would translate into the real world. Here I looked at a simple way to calculate a character's IQ and then compare it to some real life examples (from sportsmen and actors to politicians and scientists).
  • Bringing Out The Very Big Guns: a simple inquiry about how to handle the common comic book trope of the "living planet" character (e.g. Mogo the Green Lantern or Ego).  
I'm working on some more articles about Knight City and hope to soon be able to start detailing the various districts and points of interest, although this is taking longer than I anticipated.

Other projects include an expansion to the "action figure" rules above - to offer alternatives to the straight-forward 3.75" to 6" figures - that would introduce high-end collectibles, Bishoujo figures etc

Inspired by the Marvelicious Toys podcast's hilariously damning review of Julie Taymor's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Broadway musical, I'm also playing around with a "mini-game" of tables to randomly calculate the success of a stage show - or movie - based on a player-character's life and adventures.

But all this is secondary, naturally, to firming up the details of the second issue of the adventures of The Agents Of C.O.M.P.A.S.S., which is coming together nicely and just really needs to be set out in note form, have the NPC's statted up and suitable pictures printed out (and laminated) to act as props.

Oh, and I really must start cutting out some counters!

Space, Time And A Pair Of Amy Ponds... All In A Good Cause!

The Doctor, Rory and Amy doing their thang in, possibly, the best of the Doctor Who fund-raising shorts over the years - to encourage you to donate to Comic Relief.

In turn this paves the way for three, mini online prequels before the new season begins at Easter!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Fleamarket Friday: Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder...

One of my all-time favourite Dungeons & Dragons monsters has to be the beholder - for its sheer alieness!

Hence my excitement over these new "eye of terror" miniatures from Otherworld, currently available for pre-order at £14 a pop, in their Labyrinth Lord range.

The model, which is due out at the end of the month, comes as a "multi-part kit which consists of two head sections, two sprues of eyestalks, two arm tentacles and two sprues of body fronds. The kit also includes all the parts necessary to build a classic, old-school Eye Tyrant if desired."

The Eye Tyrant variant is on the right in the picture, in case you were wondering...

Fleamarket Friday: The Complete Star Trek Dining Experience...

You're sitting down with your buddies for a Star Trek marathon and you need to pop open some brewskis... so you reach for your Enterprise Bottle Opener.

You then carve up your pizza with an Enterprise Pizza Cutter...

And for the ladies you can open a bottle of their favourite wine with the Klingon Korkscrew.

The perfect Star Trek evening!

And, in case you didn't know, a recent survey of 5,041 members of Star Trek fandom revealed that this particular demographic is 57 per cent female, primarily single, over 40, and fairly well educated.

Of course, almost 50 per cent of them also think cosplaying is "deviant"!

Fleamarket Friday: Delightful Good Friday Double Bill of Horror!

Pledge your support to the Classic Horror Campaign by attending the very economical and generally spectacular double-bill of Night Of The Demon and Vampire Circus at the  Roxy Bar & Screen in London, on Friday, April 22.

Tickets - available only on the door - are a mere £5. The double bill starts at 3pm, but doors are open at the venue from 1pm.

For more information about the film show and the campaign visit Facebook.

Fleamarket Friday: Seriously?

Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn by Genevieve Miller.

Available from Forbidden Planet for £10.99 (plus postage), the store's website has this to say about the book: "Surrender to the allure of knits inspired by the immortals we all love to fear. If you adore Twilight, True Blood, or The Vampire Diaries, this collection of 28 imaginative and beautiful projects is sure to captivate. Whether you are wandering the Carpathian Mountains or the bayous of Louisiana, these smouldering projects - for knitters of all levels - will keep you well protected, no matter what you attract."

Fleamarket Friday: Max Neptune On DVD!

Long-time readers of HeroPress will know the love I have for the retro-sci-fi majesty of Max Neptune And The Menacing Squid.

After a run of sell-out screenings, the movie is finally available to buy on DVD for the very reasonable price of $16.99.

Fleamarket Friday: Fill 'Em Full O' Lead!

A partnership between Pinnacle Entertainment and Reaper Miniatures will see a new range of Deadlands miniatures appearing in shops - and online - from May.

The range begins with figures of the game's "four servitors" - Dr Darius Hellstromme, Reverend Grimme, Raven, and the Weird West's deadliest Undead gunslinger, Stone (pictured above).

Deadlands - now a mainstay of the Savage Worlds line of roleplaying games - is a setting I've been in love with since it first appeared back in '96, with its enthralling blend of horror, gritty western and steampunk.

Sadly I've never actually played in the setting. I could never get any of my friends interested in Western RPGs (I guess it means more to an American audience) and just don't have the gaming opportunities to squeeze in another campaign (of any type) these days.

But that's not going to stop me giving serious consideration to investing in this line of miniatures...

And speaking of beloved Savage Worlds' settings that I doubt I'll ever get to play in, here is the Game Geeks video review of Space 1889: Red Sands (as well as the new core books for Deadlands. I've always seen Space 1889 as a fully compatible setting with Deadlands anyway).


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