Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Doctor Who: Day Of The Moon

I am increasingly convinced that it is Steven Moffat's primary goal in life to drive the viewers of Doctor Who insane.

After one of the best pre-credit sequences in a long while, Day Of Moon - picking up three months after the conclusion of The Impossible Astronaut - was a roller-coaster moving at lightspeed through a surreal terrain of mind-twisting mental images, interweaving plot threads and barmy revelations.

This episode had everything - from weird science and clever twists to the most terrifying children's home in '60s America.

Although The Silents' similarity to The Weeping Angels has been picked up on by several commentators on the good, ol' Interwebz, there is no getting round the fact that they are also similarly creepy and unnerving in their own way.

There were also moments in this episode that certainly resonated with echoes of gimmicks Moffat has used before (the 'perfect prison' The Doctor was 'trapped' in by the US Government - not sure where they got the material from - was a rehash of The Pandorica, while Amy's disembodied voice touched the same raw nerves that voices in Silence In The Library did), but the innovations came thick and and fast as well.

Since Doctor Who returned six years ago and adopted the American format of 45 minute episodes (rather than its old style of four or six 25-minute episodes per story), it has become increasingly hard to pass sensible judgment on single-episodes when they are part of a two-episode story.

In the good, old days of Classic Who you wouldn't have dreamed of reviewing a single episode out of context from a multi-part story, but now the individual episodes are somehow expected to simultaneously stand-on-their-own and continue the overarching narrative of the season.

So far, this season seems to be heading the right way.

Under the auspices of The Moff, the show has been becoming ever more American in its design, with a season's through-story being more than the appearance of a particular totem in each episode (e.g. Bad Wolf) and more like one continuous story that happens to feature some 'larger', almost standalone, episodes in its run.

After just two episodes we are left with many, crucial unanswered questions - many of which I suspect will remain unanswered until the end of this season.

We still don't know who pulled the trigger in The Impossible Astronaut, how Moffat is going to get out that particular corner he has painted himself into, who the little girl is (loved, beyond words, her final appearance at the end of Day Of The Moon, by the way), what's going on with Amy's Shroedinger pregnancy, who River Song really is (although it was strongly suggested that she and The Doctor were lovers/husband and wife even?), what was happening with the face at the disappearing window that said something about "she must still be dreaming" (or words to that effect), why had The Silent been building a replica TARDIS console room (and how did it end up in The Lodger?), will Rory and Amy live happily ever after (I do hope so) and probably countless other dangling sub-plots I'm too excited to even remember at the moment.

I'm hoping this year will see the series lurch back towards science-fiction rationalisation - as it does with this two-part story - and away from the fairy tale logic of last season. So far things appear to be heading brilliantly in the right direction.

As well as giving Tricky Dicky Nixon some of his most-positive television coverage in years, Moffat's story also slipped in a Whovian explanation of The President's need to record every conversation in the Oval Office.

So is this the last we will see of The Silents or will they crop up again as The Doctor goes back in Earth's history? And what were they doing during their thousands of years of occupation when other alien races invaded our planet? It must have gotten quite crowded at times! I wonder how The Silents got on with the daleks and cybermen?

Prequel To Next Week's Episode

Next Week:

Knight City Round-Up Of The Week...

This week I've been gearing up for next week's next session of the Tuesday Knights - and I'm looking forward to seeing what they make of the leftfield challenge I have for them this time.

Over at the in-game blog, The Knight City Chronicles, this week, we have:
  • Issue Three Prologue: A text article covering recent events in the civilian lives of Nightshade (Kevin), Skyscraper (Simon) and The Surgeon (Pete). Steve - who will hopefully be present on Tuesday - has been bridging the gap between his appearances at the table with a play-by-email adventure./li>

  • First Contact: A background feature on mankind's first encounter with extraterrestrials in 1972. While I'm all in favour of including alien races in the game - they are part and parcel of the superhero oeuvre after all - I like to make them as potentially 'alien' as possible.

    This entry deals mainly with the benign Rythans, one of whom (Exarch Farillor) has been working with the Government for over three decades now.

    At a later date no doubt more Lovecraftian lifeforms will begin to appear as the players probe deeper in the genesis of their world and universe.

  • New Look Logo For COMPASS: A brief piece introducing the new look COMPASS logo (see above) from the multi-talented Paul V Fleming.

Meanwhile, here on HeroPress, all the Knight City activity has concentrated on new arrival Aviator with the next installment of his on-going fiction from creator Steve Bates as well as article about Steve's online quest to design his character a costume.

Aviator #2 Hits The Shelves...

The second "issue" of Steve Bates' Aviator fiction from my Knight City Villains & Vigilantes campaign has been published over at his Pseudo Random Noise blog.

In this episode, the aerial avenger finds himself tussling with an armoured abomination by the name of Feuerkraft (that's Firepower, for us non-German speakers).

Seeds are also sown for future foul-ups in the novice hero's private life with a missed call from an ex-girlfriend...

In other news, Aviator's origin is explained in a back-up feature that can be found here.

And so, the universe of Knight City continues to grow!

High Tech Noon...

Before Outland, there was High Tech Noon...

You can't fail to love this incredible reworking of the Western classic, High Noon, which, itself, was retold in 1981 as the Sean Connery sci-fi flick Outland.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Final Word On The Royal Wedding...

The latter is from The Mary Sue

Fleamarket Friday: Cast A Spell On DVD...

The HeroPress-championed, Dungeons & Dragons-inspired web serial Spellfury has come to DVD.

With the opening episode of Season Two due any day now, Season One is available direct from the show's producers for $15 (plus shipping). Bonus features include an audio commentary and behind-the-scenes footage.

To order your own copy visit the Spellfury home page and click on the "buy now" button on the left hand side of the page.

Fleamarket Friday: My Mysterious Doctor...

QMx, manufacturers of fine sci-fi prop replicas, are offering this reproduction of The Doctor's portrait that appeared in the opening scene of The Impossible Astronaut last weekend.

Should you desire a copy for some reason, it will set you back $14.95 (plus shipping, presumably).

My Mysterious Doctor is an 18" by 24" art print taken directly from the original painting, resized and published on 100-pound satin-finish paper.

Fleamarkey Friday: Everybody Was Kung Fu Fightin'...

On August 10, Wizkids releases its new range of Street Fighter HeroClix. I used to enjoy button-smashing, fighting video games when we all got together to play them at University, so I can see myself eventually picking up some of these - and, of course, they'll probably come in useful as general purpose wargames minis anyway.

According to Icv2: "The Capcom Street Fighter HeroClix figures are also available in a Starter 6-Pack, which will retail for $19.99, and which will allow players to conduct their own Heroclix Street Fighter matches right out of the box.

"The attractive, transparent
Starter 6-Pack includes key Street Fighter characters like Guile, Ryu, and Blanka that are 'completely redialed' and feature alternate paint schemes from those used in the base set. In addition the Starter 6-Pack includes character cards, 4 exclusive maps, 2 custom dice, and a 2011 HeroClix rulebook"

Fleamarket Friday: Venture Beyond The Fence...

Simon's Cat: Beyond The Fence, by Simon Tofield... available through Amazon.

Apparently There's A Royal Wedding Today...

I'm sure William and Kate are lovely people, but their wedding interests me as much as mine did them.

My feelings about our token and anachronistic royal family are best summed up in this script excerpt from the hilarious Monty Python & The Holy Grail... and I shall leave it at that.

I hope Wills and Kate are very happy, but would just like to remind you that "I didn't vote for them".
DENNIS: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior!
ARTHUR: Well, I AM king...
DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. An' how'd you get that, eh? By
exploitin' the workers -- by 'angin' on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an' social differences in our society! If there's ever going to be any progress--
WOMAN: Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh -- how d'you do?
ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Whose castle is that?
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. we're all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship.
A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.
DENNIS: That's what it's all about if only people would--
ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
WOMAN: No one live there.
ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?
WOMAN: We don't have a lord.
DENNIS: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified
at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,--
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: --but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more--
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh -- who does he think he is?
ARTHUR: I am your king!
WOMAN: Well, I didn't vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don't vote for kings.
WOMAN: Well, 'ow did you become king then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, [angels sing]
her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen -- strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an empereror just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you here that, did you here that, eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn't you?
Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

Magneto's Too Cool For School!

Could X-Men: First Class be the surprise hit of the superhero summer?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Superhero Summer Heats Up In Class...

The latest X-Men: First Class trailer arrives with a selection of new material amongst the more familiar shots, but continues to sell this as a great 'origin' piece for the X-Men.

And Bleeding Cool has an even longer trailer for your delight. Our cup surely runneth over with X-Men flavoured shininess.

Aviator Checks Out Online Costume Alternatives...

Aviator - modeling two versions of his costume
This week the latest superheroic arrival in Knight City has been looking through his virtual wardrobe and selecting costume designs courtesy of a number of online resources.

Stephen Bates, creator of Aviator for The Tuesday Knights' Villains & Vigilantes campaign, has turned Gok Wan and gone in search of the best, free, sites for creating slick superhero costumes.

His article, at Pseudo Random Noise, is well worth checking out as a great resource for those bereft of either artistic talent or the time to design a character's costume from scratch.

Green Lantern's Light!

Another Green Lantern trailer - this is a two-minute, extended version of the previous 90-second one, with some bits added from an earlier trailer and a few snippets of new stuff.

Of all this summer's superhero movies, this is the one I'm least sure about. Even by my sometimes gauche tastes, I fear there might be a surfeit of CGI, but I'm trying to remain open-minded.

On The Subject Of Doctor Who...

The geek intelligentsia who provide the daily fodder for the hilarious Our Valued Customers have struck again...

First Trailer For Magnificent Over-The-Top Fantasy Epic...

Wow! Immortals looks fantastically bonkers - part superhero movie, part (the original and best) Clash Of The Titans, part 300! One hundred per cent my cup of tea... and opening in time for my birthday in November.

See Henry Cavill do mythological superman (as Theseus) before he dons the cape for Zack Snyder's Superman movie: Man Of Steel.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Coming Attractions...

A sneak peak at Thursday's episode of V.

A preview of episode three of Game Of Thrones, which airs on Monday.

Behind The Mask: The Ideas' Drawer...

All my best ideas seem to come just as I'm nodding off to sleep (although my sleeping tablets may have something to do with that) and so I've instigated a new practice - with the discovery of small-sized Post It notes - of keeping my "sudden flashes of inspiration" on the drawer of my bedside cabinet.

Some are near indecipherable scribbled plot ideas, others are just strings of words and some are inventions that Nick Law - commander of The Agents Of COMPASS - really should have in his laboratory.

Then, once an idea has been used I simply tear up the note and toss it in the bin.

It's not hi-tech - like Corkboard - but so far it's working better for me than the multitude of half-filled notebooks that were scattered around my desk in the gamesroom.

And also, as I tend to read comics on the bed, my Post Its are within easy reach when I come across an idea I just have to swipe!

If I can keep this up I'm looking at it turning into my version of Rip Hunter's chalk board (from The DC Universe) or future Iron Man's chart of events (in the Marvel Universe).

I think I have a little way to go yet...

Max Neptune & The Menacing Squid - Chapter 2

Monday, 25 April 2011

At The Fleapit: Thor (2011)

"Thor! huh good God
What is it good for?"

The summer of superheroes has opened in earnest with a magnificent boom of thunder and flash of lightening.

Thor has arrived - and the movie was truly awesome. Rachel and I got to see a preview earlier today (before the film opens across the UK on Wednesday) and there is little higher recommendation for one of "my films" than to say she didn't fall asleep during it!

Much praise has to be heaped on the shoulders of Kenneth Branagh for his vision - his depiction of Asgard could have been pulled from the pages of the source comics, conjuring up the '60s blend of weird science and mysticism that Jack Kirby brought to the pages of Marvel Comics when Thor first saw life as a comic book superhero.

Even though the Bifrost Bridge has taken on more the appearance of a "boom tube" from DC Comics, it probably works better than a literal rainbow bridge would have.

Thor is, of course, an "origin story" movie, setting the groundwork for future Thor films and his role in next year's Avengers movie, and, as such, isn't particular taxing on the plot front .

The movie is more an extended encounter that allows the viewers to get to grips with the character of Thor, his extended supporting cast, his mystical world, and the machinations of his Machiavellian brother Loki (Tom Hiddleson) - certainly the single best written character in the screenplay.

The pacing is incredible for a two-hour movie; there's never a dull moment - but it's also not all flashy special effects and fighting (although there's enough of that) - as the story blends the settings of Asgard and contemporary Earth.

Having been subtly manipulated by his brother into breaking the peace treaty with the kingdom of the frost giants, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is stripped of his power - in the form of his mighty hammer, Mjolnir - and cast down to Earth by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

Arriving on Earth, Thor meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and quickly runs afoul of SHIELD (the government organisation that monitors superheroes in this cinematic Marvel Universe) - who have found his hammer in a crater out in the New Mexico desert.

Of course no one can move it.

And Thor wants to get it back!

The fanservice for Marvel zombies is neverending - from Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and The Warriors Three arriving on Earth in time to battle the gigantic Destroyer through the great cameo from Jeremy Renner (as future Avenger Clint Barton/Hawkeye) to the post-credit appearance, once more, by Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, head of SHIELD, with what is possibly the "cosmic cube".

In a sense Rachel was right when she said to me afterward that it wasn't really a superhero movie; for the most part Thor plays like a modern fantasy epic, suggesting a scope like Lord Of The Rings or Star Wars. It certainly broadens the framework of the Marvel Universe for those who are only aware of it through these increasingly great movies.

As Marvel Studios unfolds its gameplan for the future of its cinematic franchises, the movies do increasingly feel like part of an ongoing story - much like the best of the comics - which can work both for and against it.

While Thor certainly stands on its own as a fantasy action adventure, full enjoyment can only really be gained by embracing all the necessary Marvel movies before - and probably afterward.

A surprising - but inspired - choice for director, Branagh has also managed to bring out first-rate performances from his large cast and my only minor - probably slightly fanboyish - criticism would be that Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) wasn't fat enough!

And if that's the only thing I can find fault with then I have to say this was a mighty impressive movie.

Sneak A Peak At Some V&V Card Art...

Must... Focus... by G. Scott James
Superhuman Games has released some very attractive preview art from its forthcoming Villains & Vigilantes card game.

Gun-Toting Thor In Latest Asylum Mockbuster...

Do the dudes at The Asylum know no shame...?

"When the demon god Loki destroys the fortress of Valhalla and steals the Hammer of Invincibility, only the young hero Thor can protect Earth from armageddon."

Almighty Thor will premier on SyFy (in the US) on May 7 and I believe it is due out on DVD on May 10. You just know you're going to watch it... come on, Thor with an uzi???

Cody Deal... not Chris Hemsworth
Marvel's Thor movie is out in cinemas in the UK this week...

DVD Of The Week: The Chronicles Of Narnia - The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (2010)

When Prince Caspian breathed new life into The Chronicles Of Narnia franchise (after the pretty bland Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe), I had high expectations for the next adaptation from the cycle: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader.

And I wasn't disappointed.

Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) find themselves transported once again from war-torn England to the fantastical land of Narnia.

This time the method of transport is a magical painting and they are joined by their obnoxious and cowardly cousin Eustice (Will Poulter - a recognisable face from E4's hideous School Of Comedy show).

Plucked from the sea by King (formely Prince) Caspian (Ben Barnes) on board the sailing ship Dawn Treader, the children soon find themselves swept up in an epic voyage to track the location of seven lost friends of Caspian's father who held seven magic swords that are required to defeat a growing evil in the East.

The evil manifests itself as a green mist that has the ability to project itself as one's fears and doubts.

There is a moment, towards the end, when Edmund realises that the green mist has latched onto his own fears and with the look he gives, and the way he says "oh no", you just know 90 per cent of the adults watching are thinking: "Stay Puft Marshmallow Man".

Voyage Of The Dawn Treader is a classic sea-borne, island-hopping tale, in the style of The Odyssey and Sinbad stories, with every island being a different - increasingly dark - encounter for our party of adventurers as they make their way towards their final destination.

A true family action adventure film, this expands the fantasy world of Narnia beautifully, with some truly amazing visuals - to rival those of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings movies - and high quality special effects that are so slick they never threaten to shatter your suspension of disbelief.

Director Michael Apted ensures there's never a dull moment here and, even though our heroes never actually set foot on the final island, the story wraps up in a suitably magical and convincing fashion that shouldn't leave anyone dissatisfied.

Although there is physical conflict in Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, most of the story revolves around dealing with intellectual and emotional problems - but in ways far more exciting than I've just made it sound!

A clever story, unsurprisingly there are "messages" in the text, but they are reasonably subtle and good natured, working on a fairy tale moral level rather than a sledgehammer approach.

The returning young performers, Henley and Keynes, have grown into their roles and Poulter certainly redeems himself for his involvement in E4's misguided attempt at a comedy series. I look forward (hopefully) to his return in the next Narnia movie, to see how he develops the character of Eustice.

For completists there are some nice cameos by Tilda Swinton as The White Witch, Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie and William Moseley as Peter Pevensie.

Liam Neeson once more lends his vocal skills to Aslan and geek-favourite Simon Pegg replaces Eddie Izzard as the voice of warrior mouse Reepicheep.

The source material's Christian allegory gets a bit heavy-handed at the end when Aslan is talking to Lucy about "being known by another name" in our world (I'm presuming it's not Leo), but given then one of the characters willingly volunteers to travel on to "Aslan's country" (Heaven?) is this also advocating suicide as the character wasn't dead, just satisfied that he had had enough adventures in Narnia?

And, of course, the big difference between believing in Aslan, in Narnia, and believing in God, in the real world, is that Aslan is a walking, talking, breathing lion - not so much a test of faith as a test of eyesight.

Sometimes, I guess, it doesn't pay to think too much about these things!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Sam Wishes You Happy Easter!

Button-eyed Sam from the excellent Trick 'r' Treat is back with a suitably icky Easter message for you...

More Bunny-Themed Eastery Goodness...

Topical cuteness via Calvin's Cave Of Canadian Cool

Making Mine A Marvellious Easter!

For Easter my darling wife bought me Volume Eight of the beautiful, hardback edition of The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A - Z (Mad Pharaoh to Phoenix Force) - thus completing my collection of the current 14-volume edition of the Marvel Handbooks that I have been patiently accumulating over the last 18 months or so.

In return I funded her purchase of some dolls' house knick-knacks she had acquired at a recent show we attended.

Happy Easter, Geeks!

Click to embiggen!

If you love comics and you're not reading Gutters then you're missing out!

A hardback 128-page, Gutters omnibus is also available.



Saturday, 23 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

The Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory are back on our TV - with River Song - and the pre-screening trailers the BBC has been running have generated high expectations (especially in the wake of last year's largely disappointing first run under the guidance of Steven Moffat).

But, rather worryingly, The Impossible Astronaut opened with a couple of random, pointless vignettes played totally for laughs (and to make interesting clips with the trailers).

The real story kicked off post-credits with The Doctor, Amy, Rory and River rendezvousing in the Utah desert and faced with a mystery that involved "space 1969" and a gentleman by the name of Canton Everett Delaware (who turns out to be an ex-FBI man called in by President Nixon for a special assignment).

And we mustn't overlook the stunning visual of the Astronaut standing in the lake...

The TARDIS materialises in the Oval Office as President Nixon (Stuart Milligan) is playing, to Canton (Mark Sheppard), a recording of strange phone calls he's been receiving from a small child - and this is where the fun really started.

Matt Smith, as The Doctor, got all the best lines this week and his flirting with River Song (Alex Kingston) was spot-on - the sort of thing adults would get, but kids would just think was banter - and Mark Sheppard, of course, was fantastic, if, ultimately, tad a redundant so far, except as the facilitator to get President Nixon on The Doctor's side.

The main thing that annoyed me about the episode though was, yes, there was a death of a main character, but Steven Moffat totally lied about it "not being a trick". Of course, it was. This is just the sort of BS that Russell T Davies would pull in the media to try and hook a few extra viewers. But Doctor Who is a strong enough programme that it doesn't need this sort of nonsense to boost ratings.

To be honest, I'd rather the showrunners said nothing about the forthcoming episodes than flat-out lied to their audience.

If we hadn't known it was coming, it might - possibly - have had some sort of emotional resonance, but as it was, as soon as the person was killed, and Amy was sobbing away, I felt no empathy whatsoever. I just knew there was an obvious loophole and it was exactly the one Moffat chose, much like the obviousness of Amy's "big secret" revealed towards the end of the episode.

It's a shame that Moffat feels the need to play up these obvious gimmicks as "something new and clever", because the rest of the latter part of the story - especially once the excellent Silent (aliens you forget as soon as you turn away from them) came into play - was superb, old school, exciting Doctor Who.

The story was full of joyous time travel and scary aliens, which are the two things we know that Moffat does well. He is one of the few Doctor Who writers who has recognised that time travel can be used for more than just getting The Doctor and his companions into (and out of) a story and I love that about his episodes.

There's also plenty of mysteries to be solved; the identity of the "astronaut", what The Silent want, will it be possible to save their "dead" colleague etc?. Certainly enough to hook even a casual viewer, let alone a die-hard Whovian like most readers of HeroPress.

Season openers since The Doctor returned in 2005 have generally been pretty mediocre, as they've always had to be newbie friendly, yet The Impossible Astronaut was certainly one of the better ones. It also had the benefit of being the first part of an extended story and the trailer for part two certainly kicks things up a gear, rather than just being more of the same.

Even if it does immediately spoil the cliffhanger ending of The Impossible Astronaut!

Next Week:

Target: Rory!

Well, HeroPress readers have certainly got the knives out for Rory!

In my recent "who's going to die tonight?" poll, 65 per cent of those who voted believe it will be Rory; 20 per cent reckon it will be River Song and 15 per cent have their sights set on The Doctor, and no-one dared name Amy.

Even though we've seen Rory in pictures released from later in this half-season (A Good Man Goes To War, episode seven), he was in Roman garb and so it's quite possible that Amy and The Doctor have traveled back to the time when Auton Rory - in his role as "The Constant Warrior" - was standing guard over The Pandorica.

And remember Steven Moffat said said it isn't a trick and whoever it is is definitely going to die in the season opener.

The Impossible Astronaut is starting now on BBC1 - and BBCHD - so we will find out soon enough. I'll be posting a review, as always, in due course... although it may not be this evening.

Rory Vs The Cybermen in A Good Man Goes To War, the mid-season cliffhanger...

Knight City Round-Up For The Week...

Very little was done by me this week for Knight City as, already in highly anticipatory mood for today's Doctor Who return, I was knocked for six by the sudden, shocking news of Lis Sladen's death (as I'm sure many Whovians were).

However, I am lucky enough to have enthusiastic fans of Knight City who had already produced some top quality material for the campaign that I had scheduled for publication this week anyway:

Doctor Steel - Building a Utopian Playland

Steampunky, supervillainous chicanery from Doctor Steel...

Friday, 22 April 2011

"The Ring Chose You!"

New Green Lantern trailer, packed with CGI goodness!

Share The Flea Love...

I, The Acrobatic Flea, have the honour to be included in the latest short story by prolific writer, and HeroPress follower, Al Bruno III.

You can read Good Knight Claire, dedicated to Lis Sladen, over on The Wit And Weirdness Of Al Bruno III.

The tale is part of his Local Heroes sequence of unusual superheroic tales.

It's strange, but immensely flattering, to read a tale about my own Villains & Vigilantes RPG character written by someone else.

I hope, at some stage, he decides to revisit The Muldwych Knights, so I can keep track of what I've been up to!

Fleamarket Friday: One Ring To Rule All Gaming Tables...

Two hot licensed properties lead the charge in Cubicle 7's recently announced planned releases for August: JRR Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings (in the form of The One Ring RPG) and steampunk band Abney Park's Airship Pirates.

The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild is the first of Cubicle 7's new line of roleplaying games  taking place in Tolkein’s Middle Earth, spanning a period from The Hobbit up to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

According to ICv2: "This first core product will features two books in a premium slipcover, with cover art by the well-known Tolkien artist John Howe.

"The 128-page Loremaster’s Book includes everything a GM needs to run the game. The 192-page
Adventurer’s Book is designed for players.

"A poster map and a set of seven gaming dice are also included. Both books will feature full color interior art.

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild was written by Francesco Nepitello, the designer of the critically acclaimed War of the Ring strategy board game.

"The new RPG is produced in partnership with Sophisticated Games. The suggested retail price will be $59.99.

John Howe is currently finishing the cover art for the game, but I will endeavor to publish it here as soon as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, Airship Pirates is  a brand new Steampunk roleplaying game - using a version of Cubicle 7's established Victoriana dice pool mechanics (the Heresy gaming engine) - based upon the worlds and songs of groundbreaking Seattle-based steampunk band Abney Park.

Cubicle 7 is simultaneously releasing an introductory adventure for Airship Pirates called Ruined Empires.

For more information about the UK's foremost roleplaying games' publisher and the many other games they produce - including Doctor Who: Adventures In Time & Space and Primeval - please visit their website.

Fleamarket Friday: Fever Crumb Audio Book...

The unabridged audio book of Fever Crumb, read by author Philip Reeve, is now available - either as a download or on CD.

For more information, and hints about another forthcoming audio book,  visit Mr Reeve's blog.

Also visit the blog for a large map of Fever's world.

Fleamarket Friday: Are You Prepared For The Zombie Apocalypse?

I thought I was pretty au fait with most of the zombie books out there, but the King Of The Zombies has proved me wrong with his review of this awesome choose-your-own adventure book: Can YOU Survive The Zombie Apocalypse?

Certainly sounds a winner - I'll be picking up a copy ASAP. Haven't read/played a choose-you-own adventure since I was a teenager and I'm pretty sure there weren't any zombie ones back in the day.

The 384-page book is currently available from Amazon for £7.99.

Fleamarket Friday: Make It Deluxe!

Promising "bigger and better", Pinnacle has just announced plans to release a full-size, deluxe hardback edition of its core Savage Worlds rules.

This new edition will include:
  • Design notes from the authors, so you can see the thinking behind the system
  • New art from some of the game industry's best talent
  • All new One Sheets showcasing some of the game's best features
  • An expanded section on "Setting Rules" and how to apply them to your campaigns
  • New situational rules such as "Interludes" and "Dramatic Tasks"
  • Errata and rule updates, all which will be made available on Pinnacle's website absolutely free for those who already have the best-selling Explorer's Edition

Fleamarket Friday: The Obverse Quarterly...

Already counting the amazing adventures of Iris Wildthyme and Faction Paradox among their blooming portfolio, Obverse Books is embarking upon a new venture with its annual, themed, collections of short stories: The Obverse Quarterly.

Editor Stuart Douglas explains: "Taking our cue from the New England Library paperbacks of the 1970s, Obverse Books are delighted to present a set of four paperback short story collections, available both by annual subscription and as single volumes, each covering an area of interest to the genre fiction fan.

"From horror to fantasy, science fiction to detective stories, and with brand new stories from the likes of Michael Moorcock, Conrad Williams and Paul Magrs the
Obverse Quarterly has something fresh and unexpected for everyone."

Book 1: Bite Sized Horror, edited by Johnny Mains (to be released 30 June)

A chewable selection of horror and terror from some of the masters of the field, edited by Johnny Mains – Mr Pan Horror!
  • Brighton Redemption - Reggie Oliver
  • The Between - Paul Kane
  • His Pale Blue Eyes - David A. Riley
  • The Unquiet Bones - Marie O’ Regan
  • The Carbon Heart - Conrad Williams
Book 2: Senor 105 and the Elements of Danger, editor Cody Quijano-Schell (to be released 30 September)

Senor 105, masked Mexican wrestler and fighter of evil and infamy (and friend of Iris Wildthyme) returns in his own collection, edited by 105 creator Cody Quijano-Schell and with an introduction by comic book creator David Yurkovich.
  • Glyph – Joe Curreri
  • Señor 105 contra el Bigote de Perdición – Lawrence Burton
  • Mechaluchador vs Iguanadios - Jonathan Dennis
  • Are you Loathesome tonight? - Blair Bidmead
  • The Anti-element – Julio Angel Ortiz
  • Jackalope – Cody Quijano-Schell
Book 3: The Diamond Lens and Others Stories: The Short Fiction of Fitz-James O'Brien (to be released 01 December)

One of the very earliest science fiction authors, whose work has not been in print since 1929, Fitz-James O’Brien was an Irish writer of poetry, plays and short stories who fought in the American Civil War and was killed in battle in 1862.

His imaginative and often surreal fantasies have rightly been described as one of the earliest forerunners of modern science fiction.

Book 4: Zenith Lives! Edited by Stuart Douglas (to be released 30 March 2012)

For much of the first half of the twentieth century, the detective Sexton Blake appeared to be a cross between Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, as he foiled super-villains and evil geniuses time and again in the pages of boys comics.

Foremost amongst those villains was Zenith the Albino, an opera cloaked gentleman with a taste for danger and excitement and little thought for personal safety. Obverse Books is proud to present new Zenith adventures from some of Blake’s biggest and best known fans!

With new Zenith stories from Michael Moorcock, Paul Magrs, George Mann, Mark Hodder and Stuart Douglas.

All - including subscriptions - now available for pre-order...


  • Annual Subscription (for four titles) - £28 plus £6 P&P
  • Individual Titles: £9.99 plus £1.50 P&P.
  • Annual Subscription (for four titles) - £28 plus £12 P&P
  • Individual Titles: £9.99 plus £3 P&P.
For more information about the Quarterly, and Obverse's other wonderful books, visit the Obverse Books website.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Super Animated Opening...

Enjoy the NSFW, gory, slightly insane, blood-splattered animated title sequence for James Gunn's Super... Just not while you're eating breakfast!

The Aviator Flies In...

One of my more fun tasks this week has been to stat up, in Villains & Vigilantes terms, HeroPress follower Steve Bates' character Aviator, from his fiction contribution to the ever-expanding world of Knight City.

Name: Rob Tomlin
Identity: Aviator
Age: 35
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 165lb
Basic Hits: 4

  • Heightened Strength B (+24)
  • Heightened Endurance A (+9)
  • Flight - max speed 680mph (in vacuum can shift to 'hyper-flight', where max speed is 68 x speed of sound). PR = 1/hour either normal or hyper-flight.
  • Willpower A (heightened resistance to hostile environments, torture, pain etc). PR = 1/turn or 1/defence.
Strength: 34
Endurance: 20
Agility: 13
Intelligence: 15
Charisma: 9

Hit Points: 36
Power Points: 82
Ground Movement: 67"
Healing Rate: 2
Damage Modifier: +2
Accuracy: +1
Carry Capacity: 3,408lb
Basic HTH Damage: 1d12
Detect Hidden: 12%
Detect Danger: 16%

As his powers appear to have spontaneously manifested, the initial suggestion is that Rob Tomlin (alias Aviator) is a mutant... but I'm sure his origin will be further developed by Steve in upcoming short stories.

I have to say I love the fact that already Knight City is becoming a "living" campaign where players and even blog-followers are helping the game universe to expand organically, as in a comic book world.

While I - as "publisher" - have the ultimate say-so in how the game world develops outside of actual tabletop events, I try to take a hands-off approach as much as possible to allow the input of others to expand the campaign in directions I never imagined when I reopened this Pandora's Box at the end of last year.

BBC Schedule Lis Sladen Tribute...

A 15-minute tribute to Lis Sladen, who passed away earlier this week, entitled My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen will run after Saturday's Doctor Who season opener, The Impossible Astronaut.

According to the BBC, the programme will be "both a tribute and a celebration of Elisabeth Sladen. It brings together stories from friends and colleagues and draws on a rich archive of material to remind us of Sarah Jane's journey, from companion to the Third Doctor to the central character in CBBC's award-winning The Sarah Jane Adventures."

My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen
is on CBBC on Saturday, at 6.45pm (note the channel, for those in the UK with Sky TV that's Channel 613).

Doctor Who: Planet Of The Spiders (1974)

Even before the tragic loss of Lis Sladen earlier this week, Planet Of The Spiders has always held a particular mystique for me as some of my earliest memories of Doctor Who involve this story and The Green Death.

Little seven-year-old me was scared out of his wits by Planet Of The Spiders - resulting in whole sections now being completely new to me as I watch it again, for the first time since it was originally broadcast in 1974.

However, I'm sad to say, it wasn't the giant spiders or even the strange glowing crystals that freaked me out but, in my youthful ignorance, it was simple Tommy (John Kane), the mentally challenged handyman at the Buddhist retreat.

And because I either hit behind the sofa or refused to watch some of the later episodes I failed to see Tommy transform from a slightly sinister (in my young eyes) character to a heroic figure that actually deserved a future appearance in the show as a highly eligible companion to The Doctor.

But now I'm getting ahead of myself...

Attempting to atone for his treacherous behaviour in Invasion Of The Dinosaurs, former UNIT man Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) has joined a Buddhist retreat in the English countryside, only to stumble upon some shady goings-on by a group of middle-aged salesmen, stock brokers and bankers who are using the meditation skills they have learned to contact an alien intelligence on the planet Metebelis 3.

Mike calls in investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Lis Sladen), in the hope that she can act as a "go between" between Mike and UNIT if anything is really going on.

Meanwhile, The Doctor and The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) are interviewing a stage magician who has mysteriously developed genuine psychic abilities and while this plot strand is never followed up it neatly ties into the goings-on with Metebelis 3 when the psychic comes into contact with the blue crystal (from that planet) that The Doctor gave Jo Grant as her wedding present.

Metebelis 3 has now been taken over by giant, mutant, psychic spiders - brought from Earth on a colony ship and transformed by the crystals on the planet - who have enslaved the humans that came there with them. However, the Queen Of The Spiders wants to use the "perfect crystal" that The Doctor stole to conquer their former homeworld... Earth!

A six-episode story, marking the end of the Pertwee era, as well as Barry Letts' time as producer, Planet Of The Spiders is a glorious send-off - similar in manner to Russell T Davies' swansong for David Tennant's Doctor - that allows Pertwee to present a "greatest hits" of his moments as The Doctor.

He is given numerous opportunities to show off his Venusian Aikido and the majority of the second episode is devoted to a prolonged chase via land (featuring The Doctor's car, Bessie), air (with the Doctor is a futurist flying car of his design) and, finally, sea.

None of this really adds anything to the story and, as always in this period of Doctor Who, the CSO is dreadful and the special effects (particularly the immobile giant spiders) are quite risible, but it really doesn't matter.

Planet Of The Spiders remains a powerful, memorable adventure that under Letts' direction never hangs around in one place for too long; yet is permeated by a definite sense of an era coming to an end.

It's also best to overlook the slightly racist/racebending performance of Kevin Lindsay as the Tibetan deputy abbot Cho-Je - which is only fractionally removed from the Asian stereotypes of '30s and '40s cinema - and instead focus on what a fascinating character he turns out to be, when his relationship with the elusive abbot K'anpo Rimpoche (George Cormack) is finally revealed.

(For those not already in the know, it is perhaps best you don't click on this link to The TARDIS Index File and its insightful overview of K'anpo's place in the Whoniverse)

I've stated several times before that overall, despite him being a great actor with a unique voice, I'm not that enamoured with Pertwee's take of The Doctor (all the gurning, disguises, silly voices, martial arts etc have never sat well with me).

Nevertheless Planet Of The Spiders is a story purely for the fans of the show, crafted superbly by the outgoing producer (Barry Letts) and script editor (Terrance Dicks), that for all its physical faults - effects that certainly haven't stood the test of time - is a fitting tribute to The Third Doctor and his traveling companions.

"A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don't cry. While there's life, there's..."

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

First Class Trailers, Flunking On The Posters...

What on Earth is going on with the promotion of X-Men: First Class?

While the trailers - the latest one is above for your enjoyment - are incredible, the posters have been inversely appalling with the freshest release (see below) an embarrassing display of amateur Photoshopping (note the bizarrely oversized, and misplaced, heads on Xavier and Magneto)!

Lis Sladen/Sarah Jane Smith Tribute...

A beautiful six-minute montage, put together by Tim Scanlan of the Doctor Who Miniatures Game (DWMG) Yahoo group... guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye, as we are reminded of just a handful of Ms Sladen's magical appearances in Doctor Who.

Knight City Fan Fiction...

Inspired by the adventures of The Agents Of COMPASS that I have been chronicling here (and over at The Knight City Chronicles), frequent erudite HeroPress commentator Nimbus (aka Steve Bates) has penned a great short story set in the same universe.

Look, Up In The Sky! is set during the last Agents Of COMPASS adventure - kind of "behind-the-scenes" - as new kid on the block, Aviator, follows the exploits of the Agents and gets tangled up in the mess they left behind.

""Why the hell am I doing this?" Rob Tomlin muttered to no one in particular because he was on his own and no one else was nearby.

He was stood in the shadows on top of a building looking out along an empty street in the rough part of Knight City known to locals as Devil Heights. He'd been there a few minutes, taking a moment to catch his breath and to "survey his surroundings" or whatever they called it. Glancing down at his watch, Rob noted that it was almost 10pm at night. He'd give it another half an hour and then "retire back to base" and into his comfortable bed.

It had seemed like such a good idea at the time. It's what they did in all the comic books. With great power came great responsibility and all that trash.

So here he was.

On patrol.

And he'd seen nothing.

To read the rest visit Nimbus' blog Pseudo Random Noise.

Bitter Irony...

Even to a dullard such as I, the irony of this morning's postal arrivals isn't lost.

As well as volume two of Panini's Sarah Jane Companion magazine, the latest Doctor Who DVD to turn up was the eagerly-awaited Planet Of The Spiders - featuring both Lis Sladen and Nicholas Courtney and directed by producer Barry Letts (all of whom appear on the commentary track).

Meanwhile the Internet continues to burn brightly with tributes to Lis Sladen, including a particularly touching and personal one from Nicholas Briggs of Big Finish and a poignant cartoon from John Kovalic.

A Soupçon Of Squid...

With the retro sci-fi delights of Max Neptune And The Menacing Squid now available on DVD enjoy this six minute sampling of the complete movie's first six minutes...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen (1948 - 2011)

That stalwart of Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, the effervescent Lis Sladen has passed away today. She was only 63.

As The Doctor's most enduring companion, Sarah Jane Smith, she accompanied Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and David Tennant on adventures and, of course, even met Matt Smith's Doctor for a recent tale, as well as fronting her own spin-off shows (K-9 And Company and The Sarah Jane Adventures) and numerous audio adventures.

An amazing actress, she was also the "voice" of Doctor Who on recent BBC behind-the-scenes audio documentaries about the show.

Another part of my childhood has been lost - too soon - and the universe is that bit darker this evening.

My Hot Elf Chick!

Last week my wonderful wife Rachel got to spend four days in Lapland (for work), as one of the clients she represents is a Finnish manufacturer of playground and parkour equipment.

On the final day of their visit, their group were taken to Santa's official workshop and got to meet the Big Man himself; that's Rachel on Santa's left-hand side, our right.

Next to her is work colleague Victoria and the other gentlemen are all members of the client's firm. And yes, Father Christmas does have his hand on Rachel's shoulder... which makes her an official "Santa's elf" in my book!

I'm hoping she put in a good word for me as I'm already working on this year's list...

Doctor Who: Snakedance (1983)

For all the silliness and pretension of Kinda, it laid the groundwork for its far superior sequel, Snakedance.

Having lain dormant within Tegan, the Mara awakens and steers the TARDIS towards its homeworld of Manussa.

The Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan arrivein time for the once-a-decade celebration of the Manussan's triumph over the Mara, which it is now looking to use as a conduit to bring it back to physical reality.

'Possessed' Tegan soon slips away from The Doctor and Nyssa and uses a greedy sideshow barker Dugdale (Brian Miller) as a cats-paw to lure bored, arrogant, spoilt princeling Lon (Martin Clunes) under her control.

He, in turn, cajoles the local governor, and archaeologist, Ambril (John Carson), into bringing out The Great Crystal - which has been kept under lock and key since the banishment of the Mara five centuries earlier - and it's up to The Doctor to prevent the evil spirit from manifesting itself... only he's been locked up as a raving lunatic, for spouting superstitious nonsense about the return of the mythical creature!

Not the greatest Doctor Who story, but an interesting extrapolation of the background created in Kinda - with a few tweaks. Janet Fielding is allowed free reign this time round as 'possessed Tegan' and is delightfully unnerving, while Martin Clunes - in his televisual debut - makes a great impression as the cocky, manipulative brat (despite his effeminate make-up, dangling earring and clown clothes).

A more straight-forward, dare I say "traditional" Doctor Who story, Snakedance has abandoned the pretensions of its predecessor and is content with telling a simple story, with little violence and no deaths. There are still odd moments of plot holery, but this can be overlooked because of all the interesting backstory Christopher Bailey brings to his second Mara tale.

Kudos also to director Fiona Cumming for getting such excellent performances from Clunes and Fielding, as well as Colette O'Neil as Tanha, Lon's forgiving mother.

Thor Speaks...

Thor star Chris Hemsworth graces the May cover of Men’s Health and talks about bulking up to play the Asgardian superhero and his own superheroes.

Speaking about Anthony Hopkins (who plays his father Odin in the movie and happens to be one of his role models), Chris says: "His whole approach to this business, his work ethic and attitude on set was inspiring, however many films down the track he still has that and he still is excited to be there and treats everyone as equals and everything he does, he is an impressive person.”

He also recounts a time, in his childhood, when he and his friends would fearlessly explore caves in his native Australia: "We built wooden swords and hammered nails into them, and we checked out the cave. My friends and I were convinced we’d meet some ghosts and devils.

The 27-year-old explains the roots of his passion for acting: "I always loved film, but never thought about it as a career choice. I had a different idea of what I wanted to do professionally every week. You know, I was a lawyer one week, a doctor, a sportsman in some way, and then I found out I can pretend to do all those things in acting.

The full interview can be found in the May issue of Men's Health and Thor opens in the UK next week.

Doctor Who: Kinda (1982)

To many, Kinda is the epitome of Whovian writing, but to others (myself included) it is largely twaddle dressed up in the Emperor's New Clothes.

Just because the script is dressed up with Buddhist names and ideas, does not make a deep meditation on Buddhist philosophy.

Salvaged only from utter misery by a concluding episode that goes at least some way to explain what has been going on, Kinda is mash-up of surrealist imagery and poor special effects.

Having landed on the "paradise" world of Deva Loka (Celestial Region in Sanskrit), Nyssa falls ill and spends the entire story - barring brief bookend cameos - asleep in the TARDIS (!), because the script was originally written for just two companions!

The Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Adric wander off exploring and Tegan falls asleep under some mystical windchimes while the others are captured by a robotic "suit" that takes them to the domed habitation of a small collection of colonists - commander Sanders (Richard Todd); scientist Todd (Nerys Hughes) and security chief Hindle (Simon Rouse).

Sanders goes off to look for missing members of their party and Hindle promptly goes insane and takes over, threatening to wipe out everything within a 50 mile radius to protect him from the "trees". Adric does his classic 'side-swapping' trick and appears to ally himself with Hindle.

Meanwhile Sanders has met with two of the natives, the Kinda (a telepathic race where only the "wise women" have the ability to speak) and is given a "magic box" which pacifies him and sends him back to the dome to share his "present".

While this has been going on Tegan has been off on a surreal dreamquest for the better part of two episodes where she has been taunted and threatened by the Mara - an evil spirit from the Dark Places of the Inside - who eventually takes over her body.

Having spent so long trying to force Tegan to allow him in, the first thing the Mara does is find one of the Kinda and promptly possess him - thus giving him "voice". This Kinda, Aris (Adrian Mills), decides to lead his pacifist people in an attack on the colonists' dome.

It's all very messy, and slightly tedious, especially when you realise how much of the story is pointless padding. For instance, the majority of Tegan's dream-journey is simply freaky imagery for the sake of it and then once she is possessed - and Janet Fielding does a spectacularly creepy job as 'possessed Tegan' - it's all over so fast as the Mara moves on to its next host.

Much of this story also skates dangerously close to hand-waving scientific explanations of what's going on in an almost Steven Moffat fairytale way. Couple this with Adric being at his most annoying and the awful, paper-puppet snake that appears at the climax and you have a story that is nowhere near as good as it thinks it is.

Just because characters proclaim that everything is "important" and "significant" does not make it so - it takes clever writing as well to get viewers to look beyond the aggravating supporting cast (why couldn't it have been Adric who spent the whole story asleep in the TARDIS?) and the dodgy special effects. And Kinda just doesn't come up to scratch.

At heart, despite its superior cast, it's a stereotypical "base-under-siege" scenario tarted up with a lot of meaningless pretension and silliness. I can't imagine that this story was a particular high-point for a sterling actor like Richard Todd.


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