Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

D'Wanna Be In My Gang?

Another month draws to a close with 100+ posts on the clock (not necessarily quality posts, but 100+ nevertheless!).

Although my actual gaming-related blogging has slacked off of late (personal reasons have led to various distractions), I enrolled in the new RPG Blog Alliance today - a new gaming blog aggregator in the hope that this will have the dual effect of (a) encouraging me to stay more focused and (b) introduce the rather random, magazine-style delights of HeroPress to more people.

Obviously, my main gaming interest at the moment is Villains & Vigilantes, as this is the engine driving my on-going Knight City campaign for our small, monthly gaming group, The Tuesday Knights.

However, I'm also slowly making my way through Postmortem Studios enticing Agents Of S.W.I.N.G. - the first FATE-powered game I've really sunk my teeth into.

With a brain that's been hard-wired to old school Dungeons & Dragons/Traveller/Call Of Cthulhu derivatives for more than 30 years, there's of aspects of S.W.I.N.G. (FATE-related pun intended) that I'm not instantly grokking (characters don't have traditional stats for one thing - which boggles my puny mind), but I'm so intoxicated by the spy-fi setting that I'm soldiering on.

I'm sure when I'm finally finished I'll have a string of questions for author James Desborough - well, he did foolishly offer to answer any I had, so I'm drawing up a list.

Clearly FATE works as a system - because so many games are selling with it under the hood - but because I don't have access to a more regular gaming group to take S.W.I.N.G. out for a test drive (when you only get together once a month - at most - for two to three hours, you can't afford to take gambles on one-shots or 'new systems' that might not work, if you are looking to get a campaign running) it's all rather hypothetical at the moment as I try to negotiate the mechanics in my head.

Max Neptune & The Menacing Squid - The Conclusion...

Monday, 30 May 2011

New Villain For Less Than A Buck!

For Memorial Day, Monkey House Games has released its latest ninety-nine cent supervillain profile - Foe File 02: Rune.

Very little is known about Rune, other than that he is a deadly assassin-for-hire who kills using otherworldly technology. He is on the international watch lists of major governments around the world… But are they on his hit list? Or maybe his client list?

Rune is drawn by artist Kennon James, who has worked on the animated film A Scanner Darkly, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book, and draws his own online strip Mohagen.

Foe File #02: Rune is the second in a series from Monkey House Games unleashing the worst villains of the Villains & Vigilantes Universe upon your superhero role-playing campaign.

The five-page document, written by Jack Herman, is available as a pdf download from all the usual suspects.

The file consists of a briefing from TEACHER, the sentient computer system of the Crusader Citadel (headquarters of the Crusaders superhero team), character sheets with complete stats for Rune in Villains & Vigilantes and Living Legends, and a full page origin complete with background, tactics, personality traits, and choice dialogue.

As with the previous Foe File subject Omni-Primus, Rune is not a character to be approached lightly (or by low-level heroes).

Musical Monday: Dream Collection...

Gorgeous Kate Moss + freaky Rabbit-Man = WTF???

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Spellfury Returns!!! Season Two Begins Here...

Travis Gordon's beloved Spellfury web series returns for a second season, kicking off with a record-breaking six-minute episode - complete with mad Muppets, hot bar wenches, anachronistic product placement and a fairy with wing cramp!

Looks like the new season of this Dungeons & Dragons-inspired adventure tale is going to be as wonderfully oddball as the first.

Knight City Round-Up Of The Week...

This week was our last gaming session before our summer break and I'm pleased to report it appears to have been a great (if frustrating) success, with the Agents Of COMPASS bumping heads with an "old friend" in the small (fictional) Asian country of Rhudjistan.

The adventure write-up can be found over on The Knight City Chronicles here while my "director's commentary" is here on HeroPress.

Meanwhile, the Knight City Road Name community table received a new lease of life from some entries this week - so be sure to email me your own submissions now. We've passed the 50 names mark, let's see if we can make it to a 100 before Blogger decides to annihilate everything again.

Of course, if you are looking for something that could actually garner you material prizes, then don't forget there's still a few days left on my "win 3d6 of Punisher-style dice" competition.

My Knight City plans for our break from gaming include pressing on with the general world-building, reviewing my notes of ideas I've promised I'd work on, sketching out some more outlines for future "issues", and extrapolating a few sub-plots for colour pieces to run in the next few weeks.

However, I have to confess, that the amount I'll actually get done is highly dependent on how distracted I become by the delights of James Desborough's Agents Of S.W.I.N.G. and the wonderful inspirations of spy-fi television and movies that call me with their siren song from the pages of this great new game.

Enlist In The Green Lantern Corps!

Inspired by the upcoming Warner Bros. Pictures’ superhero feature film Green Lantern, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters soars onto UK game consoles on June 6. 

Players will use the most powerful weapon in the universe, the Green Lantern Power Ring, to build an array of weapons from green energy to defeat the Manhunters – an evil android race bent on destroying the Green Lantern Corps.

The Manhunters, of course, were the immortal Guardians' flawed first attempt to create an intergalactic police force.

The game, which will be available on a multitude of platforms (XBox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS, PS3 etc), is packed with intergalactic missions, killer androids and out-of-this-world combat.

Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters is an action-adventure videogame that delivers the Green Lantern experience right into the hands of gamers.

Ahead of the June 6 launch a a new Facebook page for the game has been established, which includes the new 3-D Energy Viewer, where you can challenge your friends to a Power Ring battle!

Conan Month: Achievement...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Doctor Who: The Almost People

It's hard to believe that this two-part story was written by Matthew Graham, who was responsible for one of the most awful episodes of nuWho: Fear Her. But with The Rebel Flesh and now The Almost People, he has more than redeemed himself.

He has taken a Doctor Who standard - the "base under siege" - and given it a marvelous spit-and-polish, topped off with a mind-blowing and (almost) unexpected, dark Moffat twist to lead us head-first into the mid-season finale next week.

Picking up from last week's episode, we're now treated to two Doctors - the original and his ("Almost Doctor") ganger duplicate - and the interplay between them is spectacular, fast and witty and I'd rather wished the format had allowed them more screen time for banter.

There was a lot of talking and running about in corridors, but the essence of the piece was the central question of "what makes us human"? Are we the sum of our parts? Is a ganger with all our memories any less "us" than we are?

Throw in the increasing air of confusion and paranoia as it became increasingly hard to tell who was a ganger and who was an original human and The Almost People very quickly became the encapsulation of a perfect Doctor Who episode.

Sure, The Doctor's "blood-clot curing juice" was a bit throwaway and slightly Deus Ex Machina, but then that was a slightly unnecessary sub-plot anyway - except to show that gangers duplicated the bad with the good when it came to copying human beings.

While alt-Jennifer (Sarah Smart) was determined to lead an anti-human revolution, the other gangers gradually came to the realisation that all they wanted was to live ordinary lives, and with the help of the two Doctors things - generally - worked out for the best.

Until the big reveal in the final scene... which tied into many of through motifs of this half-season (the Schrödinger pregnancy, the eyepatch-lady, why The Doctor wanted to visit this island base in the first place etc) and posed as many new questions as it answered.

I don't feel this revelation, which stands alongside the introduction of The Master at the end of Utopia for goosepimple-inducing excitement, undermines previous episodes in any way, and in fact it might go some way to explaining some issues I had here and there, and once again my feelings about Steven Moffat's stint on Doctor Who swings in a more positive direction as I await next week's episode and then begin to wonder how I'll cope over the summer waiting for the season to resume.

Prequel To Next Week's Episode
(do NOT watch either of these clips until after you've seen The Almost People)

Fire Monsters Against The Son of Hercules...

The Sun worshipers and the Moon worshipers are two tribes Maxxus must deal with.

After saving the leader of the Sun tribe from a sea monster, he must save the women who have been kidnapped by the Moon tribe
(from 1962).

Friday, 27 May 2011

Aviator Returns To A Frosty Reception...

Lucy Harvey, Senior Reporter for The Knight City Herald
Steve Bates (aka HeroPress commentator Nimbus) continues his run of fine fiction set in my Knight City game universe with the latest outing for his character, Aviator.

In this "issue", the airborne avenger is interrupted during a job interview at Miskatonic University's world-famous library by the appearance of Coldsnap, a villain looking to remove a valuable book without showing his library card!

Aviator also finds himself an object of interest for Herald reporter Lucy Harvey, who also happened to be in the building at the same time.

To get up to speed on all Aviator's activities click here.

Listen Up, You Hip And Groovy S.W.I.N.G.ers!!!

Agents of S.W.I.N.G. Character Sheet
"I've commissioned Nefarious, which will be a villain/organisation book, I have another adventure - Snake Eyes - which is just about ready to go, I have Control's Casefile which is the GMs version of the Agent's Casefile - and will contain errata, villain, henchman, goon and plot worksheets as well as references and there's plans for Section books and villain books. So there will be support. Part of the problem is that I want to use the same people for the art and the wonderful Brad McDevitt tends to get booked solid. We've talked though and we'll see what we can do."
- James Desborough, author of Agents of S.W.I.N.G. on the future of the game, in conversation with Tommy Brownell of The Most Unread Blog on the Internet. Ever.

Review Round-Up: Trackman; Orphan; Ink

Trackman (2007): A Russian horror film I'd never heard of before that Amazon recommended for me, Trackman turned out to be an interesting genre mash-up of a heist movie and a slasher flick.

A gang of grizzled bank robbers, with hostages in tow, escape into the abandoned tunnels of the Moscow subway system. However, when they discover their contact with his eyeballs ripped out, they realise not only are they lost but they are caught up in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a deranged killer.

The 'monster' of the piece - who is possibly a deformed Chernobyl victim, with a penchant for collecting men's eyeballs - is never glimpsed in full view and his stalking owes as much to Ridley Scott's Alien as similar "slashers-in-the-subway" films.

The order of executions is quite predictable and director
Igor Shavlak rather overdoes the shaky camera and atmospheric slo-mo, but the claustrophobic environment is what makes Trackman so creepy and tense.

There's also a nice twist at the end that suggests - unlike any other slashers I can think of - that the "Trackman" is just a costume for a child-like maniac who moves amongst the everyday folk of Moscow.

I found this idea that his killer persona was, in someway, a "supervillain disguise" a fascinating suggestion that I don't believe has been explored before in this particular genre (not that it was really developed much further here, either).

Orphan (2009): After the loss of a child during pregnancy, a grieving family adopts Esther, (Isabelle Fuhrman) a smart, polite precocious Russian nine-year-old to be a friend to their deaf daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) and their slightly annoying son Daniel (No Ordinary Family's Jimmy Bennett).

However, it isn't long before the audience begins to suspect - as the film's tag line suggests - "there's something wrong with Esther".

Through a combination of manipulation and charm she starts to force the couple apart, reopening old wounds (such as wife Vera Farmiga's alcoholism problem and husband Peter Sarsgaard's unfaithfulness), while scaring her two adopted siblings into silence and unwitting compliance in her evil deeds.

At first, as when I originally saw trailer for this movie back in 2009, I thought, as I watched it on TV this week, this was going to be yet another variation on the "child-born-as-antichrist" trope of horror movies.

However, Orphan is far more sinister and - in parts - makes for very disturbing viewing as Esther's end game becomes clear.

While the other two children in the movie - particular Max - have their moments in the spotlight, it is the young Isabelle Fuhrman who both makes and steals the movie. Her performance is nothing short of extraordinary and gives Kick-Ass's Hit-Girl a run for her money in the tough, juvenile delinquent stakes.

Normally I'm not that bothered about horror films without some degree of supernatural or fantastical element, but Orphan had me on tenterhooks from start-to-finish as charming, sweet-mannered Esther gradually revealed herself to be anything but.

Ink (2009):  When the world goes to sleep, two factions of unseen forces - angels (storytellers) and demons (incubi)  - come out to guide our dreams and nightmares, supposedly battling for our souls as we slumber. How do we know this? Because watching Ink will probably send you off to sleep! If you're lucky...

From the outset, Ink fails to engage its audience, instead coming across as a pretentious and tedious film school project full of painfully contrived editing, tedious, (and poorly acted) characters and random "arty" imagery.

It so desperately wants to be "the next big thing" but is undermined by a budgetary and effects-limitations that make Charmed look like a Hollywood blockbuster.

Now I loves me some good art house material and films that challenge my perceptions, but Ink is actually a chore to watch because there is a constant, nagging feeling that "this is my life being wasted, right here, right now."

I actually can't think of the last time I was less invested in a movie after the first 20 minutes and it doesn't get much better.

Thankfully there are a few whispers of genius suffocating in there to cling on to if you have the stomach to endure this 102 minute ordeal.

However, for every potentially interesting moment there's a score or more laughably amateur or simply pointless ones, jumbled up with flashing imagery and jump-cuts, just for the sake of being a bit wacky and different.

The sad twist is that about half-way through - when the metaphorical intent of the film comes to the fore and everything goes a bit It's A Wonderful Life and Christmas Carol - there are definite signs that the story is finally coming together, but it's too late to save this train wreck.

Even though the climatic final revelation, although not exactly unexpected, comes close to redeeming the film, it simply can't justify the bulk of the preceeding 90 minutes.

Quotes on the DVD box stating that Ink has "jaw-dropping optical trickery that's on a par with any of The Matrix's slugfests" are frankly risible and misleading and to mention it positively in the same breath as Inception is an insult to Christopher Nolan, your own intelligence and quality film-making.

At best, Ink is a totally uninspired mess while at its worst it is simply dull.

Like some hideous, no-budget, online fanfilm that has somehow escaped onto DVD, this is a true cinematic equivalent of The Emperor's New Clothes.

Fleamarket Friday: Going Nuts For Squirrel Girl...

One of the things I've always appreciated about the HeroClix range is its willingness to embrace the lesser-known and more goofy characters in the Marvel and DC Universes.

My small collection already includes a Howard The Duck, Rocket Raccoon and Ambush Bug and hopefully soon I'll be able to get my hands on this new release: Squirrel Girl.

Squirrel Girl and her detachable sidekick Monkey Joe are part of the new Captain America HeroClix range that is due to hit stores shortly.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Oh No, I Am Archie...

click to embiggen - comic from
This is so me...

At least it's raining today, so I have an excuse for watching back-to-back Deep Space Nine episodes!

By the way, why does Jughead wear that crown-thing?

Max Neptune & The Menacing Squid - Chapter 6...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Geek Day Presents...

As some of you may already be aware, as well as a day of general geek celebration, May 25 is our wedding anniversary.

Although we're not actually celebrating the event until later in the week - with various meals etc - we did get up early this morning to exchange gifts.

I presented Rachel with a CD she wanted and a promissory note of funds for her next shopping expedition to a dolls house expedition, while she gave me - as well as a new summer shirt - a couple of great comic-related books.

The first was Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davies, a collection of issues 42 - 50 of Excalibur which he wrote and illustrated. I first encountered Davies' art work back in the day when he was illustrating Alan Moore's run on Captain Britain in Marvel UK titles Marvel Super-Heroes and Daredevils in the early-to-mid-'80s.

I've had a passion for his style ever since and so this collection of stories about Captain Britain and the Excalibur team from the early '90s is fantastic.

The second book was Thor: Official Index to the Marvel Universe. This is part of a collection of chunky books filled with details of a character's appearances throughout the Marvel Universe - this one, for instance, looks at Thor from Journey Into Mystery #83 (August, 1962) up to Thor #614 (November 2010), as well as a handful of mini-series and supplementary titles.

As well as the cover for each issue, every listing details the creative team, characters, locations and items appearing, flashbacks, plot synopsis etc

Yes, I'm sure you could get this information off the Internet if you could be bothered, but these Index books are a beautiful sight and easily accessible. Rather than reading cover-to-over, they are a delight to just dip in randomly and see what your character of choice was up at a particular time of his life!

This will sit nicely next to the Amazing Spider-Man Official Index I already own and a couple more are in my Amazon shopping basket for when they are published later this year.

Well, as I now have the complete run of The Handbooks To The Marvel Universe, I needed to start a new geeky collection of Marvel reference books, didn't I?

Have I Mentioned Recently How Much I Love Fringe ?

Tonight, the Fringe team go deep inside Olivia's mind for a bit of Inception-action, some cartoons and a dash of zombies...

Week in, week out, there are only two TV shows that never let me down - this and Glee.

Behind The Mask: The Joy Of Schadenfreude...

artwork via A Comic A Day

As a gamesmaster, I've always seen it as my job to be a neutral arbitrator of events as well as a facilitator of the story to help maximise my players' enjoyment of the game - however, I couldn't help but grin with schadenfreude during yesterday's Villains & Vigilantes adventure when the Tuesday Knights were hoist by their own petard.

Now, the thing is, from the outset, I've always thought their superhero team - The Agents Of COMPASS - had the potential, even at low levels, to be Avengers/Justice League-caliber strong.

Pete's Surgeon can influence the emotions of crowds (as well as being a superbrain and quite handy with his sonic abilities), Simon's Skyscraper is virtually unstoppable in his giant persona and Kevin's Nightshade has a suite of powers that not only embraces forcefields and darkness control but can also make foes fall asleep (like a supercharged version of the old Dungeons & Dragons spell).

However, this week's adventure - which spun out of a case of mistaken identity - saw Pete's character being interrogated by Villains & Vigilantes' equivalent of Marvel Comics' SHIELD before being dispatched, along with his colleagues, to the small, Asian nation of Rhudjistan to apprehend the leader of a terrorist organisation known as The Silver Fist.

Now, the thing is the leader turned out to be the alternate dimension iteration of Pete's character the team had met way back in issue one when they were kidnapped to the inter-dimensional nazi fortress!

Ha Ha!
And when the final confrontation came, despite the Agents having the drop on Pete's "clone" - or "evil Surgeon" as they called him - he managed to use the character's emotion control power much more effectively than Pete did... with Pete falling under the spell of his duplicate and unable to shake it off.

The mechanics for resisting emotion control in Villains & Vigilantes involve a percentile role under a character's charisma - and Surgeon, despite being team leader, only has a charisma score of nine at present!

Pete did a fine job of fuming "at himself", but he just couldn't shake the feeling that his other self was a really swell guy and there really was no need for them all to be fighting.

In the end - with Nightshade nearing exhaustion from his energy-intensive power usage and an unlucky bullet wound - the others could do little to resist and ended up falling prey to "evil Surgeon's" influence as well.

Which was, actually, lucky for the supervillain as Skyscraper's initial surprise attack on him had - despite his invulnerability - severely battered him and it would have just taken another good strike to have taken him out of the running completely.

For a full "in-game" report on the events of issue four - From Rhudjistan With Love - visit The Knight City Chronicles.

During their first encounter with anti-Pete, there had been a bevvy of supervillains running amok and I hadn't really utilised that particular character to his fullest potential, but now after months of thinking about his return - and a lot of dumb luck, as always - I was able to turn the tables on the Agents by hitting them with an ability that, so far in their adventures, had been seen as one of their major assets.

Despite the Tuesday Knights being rendered almost impotent by the turn of events, they took it in good spirits - although I'm entirely sure that all of Pete's frustration at the situation was entirely "in-character" role-playing... but the longer it went on, the funnier it got (for me, anyway) and I couldn't help but make the alternate-dimension Surgeon increasingly smug and condescending as he was able to talk this band of mighty superheroes out of beating him up and trashing his base of operations!

And the great thing about all this was Pete, Simon and Kevin left the game plotting their revenge against this supervillain. Yes, the team has a nemesis! He is the Doctor Doom to their Fantastic Four and I couldn't be happier.

The Tuesday Knights are taking a break now until July, which gives me several weeks to work on the aftermath to this unexpected turn of events, as well as some sub-plot developments for the Agents and the outline for issue five.

Geek Day Of Celebration...

Poster by Vulcan Stev
As all good geeks and Followers of HeroPress are probably aware, today is that holy trifecta of geekdom - the anniversary of the original opening of Star Wars (in 1977), Towel Day (in memory of Douglas Adams) and the wedding anniversary of myself and the long-suffering Mrs Flea aka the ever-lovely Rachel (who puts up with all my hobbies and mad ideas... usually with good humour).

So, come one, come all, grab your towels and lightsabers and join us in the celebrations!!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Taking Control Of Your S.W.I.N.G...

And the Agents of S.W.I.N.G. goodness keeps coming from James Desborough's Postmortem Studios.

Today, James has released a 52-page Control Casefile, which is a work-booklet for the gamesmaster to "plan plots, reference rules and wrangle the stats of villains, henchmen and goons".

It also contains (minimal) errata for the first printing of Agents Of S.W.I.N.G.

This file is available as a free PDF download from the usual suspects or as a printed booklet via Lulu.

To keep on top of all the latest Agents Of S.W.I.N.G. developments follow James' Postmortem Studios blog.

Waiting Still Sucks...

Can't believe we're going to have to wait until January to see this in the UK!

Come on, FX, give us our True Blood earlier.

We get other American shows (e.g. Game Of Thrones) the day after America sees it and you get Doctor Who just after we do...

In this age of Internets and filesharing and whatnot, isn't it about time there was some equality across the globe when it comes to these popular shows?

Yay, Primeval!!!

Time-hopping, monster-fighting Primeval is back on our screens (in the UK) this evening, folks, at 8pm exclusively on Watch (Sky 109, Virgin Media 124).

Monday, 23 May 2011

Fan Support Sought For Hawk The Sequel...

Fans of the greatest Dungeons & Dragons film that wasn't really about Dungeons & Dragons - namely Hawk The Slayer - are being called upon to help finance the long-awaited sequel, Hawk The Hunter.

Reclusive director Terry Marcel has bowed to fan pressure and resolved to make the sequel to his 30-year-old sword and sorcery cult classic, but he is looking to crowd-source, via the Internet, at least $1 million, inspired by the forthcoming Nazis-on-the-Moon sci-fi epic Iron Sky, which raised $1.5 million this way.

The Richmond-Upon-Thames-based writer/director has set up an official web site to raise the gap finance required through micro donations from the loyal Hawk fan base.

It also includes an exclusive hour long audio interview with Marcel.

Donating over $10 earns you a link to download a folder of 23, never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes, glorious black and white photographs from the production of Hawk The Slayer and one fan will be randomly drawn from the donation database will receive an exclusive framed movie poster signed by Terry, the cast and crew of Hawk the Hunter.

“Studio money isn’t around, but if they sign up then I’ll make it for the fans” he says, promising that: "I’ll stay true to the style Harry Robertson and I created in Hawk the Slayer, its become a cult classic and that’s what I’ll recreate with Hawk the Hunter”.

Hawk The Hunter will see Hawk taking his control of the Mind Sword to the next level and back fighting his resurrected brother Voltan.

Westwood Productions Limited has a deal in place to shoot in partnership with Baltic Films in Lithuania and has a studio window for August  to October this year, although this is flexible and can move to spring 2012.

Terry Marcel started work at Pinewood Studios in 1960 as a mail boy, working his way up through production until he was recognised as one of the UK's top first assistant directors working with big name directors like Ridley Scott, Richard Fleischer, Sam Peckinpah and Blake Edwards on the Pink Panther movies

In 1970 he formed Marcel/Robertson with composer Harry Robertson to make small budget feature films including his 1981 masterpiece Hawk The Slayer.

Sadly Harry Robertson died and the company stopped trading. When Harry passed away Terry was heart broken and put the Hawk sequel in a box and there it stayed until he was persuaded, in recent years, to fire up the project again.

Because of the 20-year-plus gap since the original, studios weren't willing to get involved and thus began a troubled, and ultimately fruitless, period seeking private finance. Efforts weren't helped when, at one point, the film was, mistakenly, advertised as being in production before Terry even had money in the bank.

And so, finally, he has decided to try and see if the original film's fan base would help out - through micro donations via the web site.

has learned that while no cast is currently attached, Terry's production company has a casting director and doesn't see any problems in getting a great cast. The company is being contacted constantly by agents offering actors should the film get financed.

The Hawk franchise ultimately consists of three self-contained movies - Hawk The Slayer, Hawk The Hunter and Hawk The Destroyer.

Hawk the Hunter is scheduled to have a UK theatrical release in early 2012 before going on international release.

Help To Find Your Mojo, Baby!

The prodigious James Desborough of Postmortem Studios - author of the wonderful Agents of S.W.I.N.G. hasn't been resting on his laurels since the game came out just over a week ago - and immediately rocketed up the RPGNow/DriveThruRPG charts.

He has subsequently published the Agent Casefile (a 40+ page document that contains several character sheets as well as all the reference tables needed to make a character and play the game), which is available for free download as a PDF or as a Lulu POD product for a nominal fee.

James has also commissioned Nefarious, a sourcebook on villains, henchmen, goons and villainous organisations for S.W.I.N.G., to be written by Chris Helton.

And, finally, for those who need a bit of a mental jog or simply a pleasant reminder of the TV shows and movies that form the inspirational heart of this game, James has blogged videos of the title sequences from almost two dozen seminal '60s and '70s shows to get you - and your players - into the right frame of mind.

Highlights for me included:

UFO - a major influence on my gaming in my youth, as not only did I think Ed Straker was incredibly cool, but I felt all pseudo-military organisations in my games should be based on SHADO.

The Avengers - besides Diana Rigg being the most gorgeous woman on the planet, the theme music is a genuine, all-time classic.

So pay a visit to the Postmortem Studios' blog and be prepared to lose several hours luxuriating in a wayback machine set for the swinging Sixties and the smooth Seventies, as you bask in some of the finest and most iconic theme tunes ever released.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

COMPETITION: Win 3d6 Of Punishment...

Hey, heroes - want to roll up your characters in style? Check out these "money-can't-buy, unavailable-in-shops" Punisher-style dice that HeroPress is offering up as a prize in our latest competition.

We have a set of three six-sided dice, hand-crafted by artisan Abraham Nedderman, a professional die-maker, up for grabs for whoever is the lucky HeroPress reader selected from the correct entries.

To be in with a chance, simply email me the answer to the following multiple-choice question -

Marvel Comics' The Punisher is clearly inspired by which pulp hard man that originally appeared in print in 1969?

(a) Paul Kersey
(b) Mack Bolan
(c) Travis Bickle
(d) Sexton Blake

The competition closes at noon (GMT) on June 5, at which time I shall contact the winner for their contact details which shall be forwarded to Abraham, so he can mail you your gorgeous dice.

To find out more about Abraham's work and Unconventional Dice, visit his Facebook page and blog.

"Beware My Power, Green Lantern's Light!"

The latest Green Lantern trailer is clearly designed to fill-in the backstory for newbies, explaining the origin of the corps, the nature of The Guardians and introducing their enemy: Parallax.

While it still looks like a glorified video game, the movie also looks like a good rock'em, sock'em superhero slugfest that stays faithful to its comic book source material.

Sign me up, I'm in...

Conan Month: Revenge...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh

After last week's Gaiman-driven geekgasm, I wondered what Steven Moffat would pull out of the bag as a follow-up act.

Despite a cautious and not-particularly inspiring opening, The Rebel Flesh very quickly developed into a classic, old school Doctor Who "base-under-siege" yarn with the clever twist that the threat was not only coming from 'within' but was actually clones of the protagonists - sharing the same thoughts and memories.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive on an isolated island, on 22nd Century Earth, where an old monastery has been converted into an acid factory. However, because of the potential lethality of the material being produced, the government has developed a new technology that allows people to create, and control (through the use of harness in which the controller 'sleeps'), clones of themselves using a substance called the "living flesh".

These doppelgangers (or 'gangers' as they are known) then do all the dangerous work. However, a solar storm strikes the monastery (an earlier one had driven the TARDIS to land there), cutting off the gangers from their controllers.

At first, the controllers believe the gangers should have reverted to sludge - without anyone 'driving them' - but it rapidly becomes clear that the gangers have become a separate lifeform and, despite their inability to hold true human form for extended periods of time, are staking claim to the lives they "remember" having!

The first third of Matthew Graham's The Rebel Flesh failed to engage and it looked, for that time, as though Amy and Rory were going to be surplus to story requirements.

In fact Amy - except for her mandatory encounter with the one-eyed woman at the peep hole - doesn't really add much to this half of the adventure. However, Rory really comes into his own, putting his nurse training and bedside manner to good use, befriending one of the replicants, Jennifer (Sarah Smart), and effectively taking her side when the humans turn against her.

Some good humour and creepy special effects, combined with a fantastic (if rather telegraphed) cliffhanger twist ending, make The Rebel Flesh another strong episode in a season that - barring the silly pirate nonsense - continues to surprise and entertain by taking The Doctor and his companions off in unexpected plot directions.

Next week:


Image swiped from Al Bruno III some time ago
At some point today we passed the 350,000 hits mark - four months on from breaking 300,000.

It can't have hurt that HeroPress has seen a couple of months of over 100 posts and even the other week's Friday 13th SNAFU didn't really hit us too badly.

The return of Doctor Who has certainly helped as well, although on most days my post popular page remains the pictures of Amanda Tapping.

I still kid myself that people are coming here for the insightful commentary and the informed banter, but the stats speak for themselves - it's the babes, more than anything else, that attracted the hits.

For example, my recent attempt to launch a "living, community table" was - barring input from a few kind souls - an unmitigated disaster. And even when I reached out last week to see what kind of superhero-themed "living table" might attract interest, there were no replies.

On the positive side, these past four months have seen my Blogger Followers rise from 151 to 165, Facebook Followers are up to 97, even the HeroPress Tumblr has risen to 70 Followers (despite very erratic updating) and 233 Google 'subscribers'.

However, as always, just a quick look at last month's page hits shows it's the ladies that are drawing in the visitors rather than the meaty text...

If it wasn't for the occasional, unsolicited, comment of support (usually on Facebook) for my ramblings, I'd seriously think about filling HeroPress with scantily-clad babes and Goodle ads!

Clearly it doesn't help that HeroPress isn't that focused. Even under it's broad remit of "superhero stuff" its coverage strays beyond comic books and roleplaying games to TV shows like Fringe, Spartacus and Doctor Who as well as horror films and kid's cartoons - without being a definitive resource on any of these subjects.

Being the fickle, easily distracted soul that I am, my current interests - although these have yet to filter through to HeroPress that much - are leaning towards the spy-fi TV shows of the '60s and '70s, inspired by Agents of S.W.I.N.G. and 7TV.

Who can say how this will impact on the blog - or my gaming - in the next few months!

Well, for those that read the words: THANK YOU! And those who just look at the pictures: please continue to do so... they're not going away any time soon!

Knight City Round-Up Of The Week...

The Surgeon gets a rude awakening when
CHESS agents burst into his home
As we head towards our summer recess (no gaming in June), The Knight City Chronicles was all about building up to the next big game on Tuesday (thanks also, in part, to the mess left in the wake of the Great Blogger SNAFU of Friday 13th).

Hopefully I can do some more 'world-building' during June, as well as come up with solid ideas for the next few issues (I'm kicking around a few vague ones, but a lot hinges on the outcome of Tuesday's game).
  • Issue Four Teaser: An internal CHESS memo about the discovery of a wanted terrorist leader in Knight City. Obviously, the Agents Of COMPASS wouldn't be privy to this, but I wanted the players to have some inkling of what would be going down at the next session.

  • Issue Four Prologue: A text introduction to set the scene for Tuesday's game, also including on-going developments from the end of the last adventure, which I may pick up and continue in Clare's play-by-email game. The main thread for the Agents though is that their leader (Pete's character) appears to have been arrested by CHESS for terrorist activities!
Of course, there's also the possibility that The Tuesday Knights will decide to switch to a new game after the summer break, as we usually play campaigns in six monthly bursts.

The Genius Of The Crowd...

The Genius Of The Crowd by Charles Bukowski. Text animation by Canadian YouTuber zulfikar74.

Ladies & Gentleman, Where Were You When The Rapture Happened?

No new recruits to the HeroPress superteam this week - in fact, we appear to have lost two (presumably taken up ahead of time by The Rapture) - but I was just looking for an excuse to run John Kovalic's latest Dork Tower strip!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Fleamarket Friday: Dress Like Max Neptune...

We're all about the retro at HeroPress, which is why we love Max Neptune & The Menacing Squid.

Now your enjoyment of the movie can be heightened by dressing in this official T-shirt, bearing the logo of Max's Atomic Space Patrol, available from The Riot District for $20.

DVD Of The Week: Thor - Tales Of Asgard (2011)

The latest animated movie from Marvel, Thor: Tales Of Asgard is a mighty fine 77-minute, swords and sorcery adventure romp.

A good, old-fashioned, Dungeons & Dragons-style quest, young Thor (voiced by Matthew Wolf - not to be confused with either Party of Five alumni Scott Wolf or Matthew Fox), and magic-using brother Loki (Rick Gomez) head off with The Warriors Three to hunt down the mythical lost sword of Surtur in the realm of the Frost Giants.

Having found the sword surprisingly easily, the adventurous party then need to escape back to Asgard with their prize through hordes of pissed-off frost giants.

Their actions have also triggered a war, having broken the peace agreement between Asgard and Jotunheim, and a final act of treachery leaves the fate of Thor's kingdom in the balance.

Clearly released to coincide with the big screen release of Thor, Tales Of Asgard is thus rather an oddity as it is also, very obviously, not set in the same iteration of the Marvel Universe as the movie (both Hogun and Heimdall are white, the giants are truly gigantic, Volstagg is actually fat) and yet it's also not strictly the comic book universe either.

Given that the DVD also contains an episode of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, I'm guessing it's to be taken as a prologue to that particular interpretation of Marvel's take on Nordic mythology.

Set when Thor and Loki were teenagers - and Odin (Christopher Britton) had both eyes - this is all mythical realms all the time, no mention is even made of Mjolnir or Midgard (Earth) and so those looking for hammer-wielding, cape-wearing superheroics will have to look elsewhere.

The closest Thor gets to swinging a hammer is a wooden mallet that Loki gives him during a bar brawl!

From its dust-up in tavern through the hunt for a magical sword and its constant fights set against exotic backdrops, you almost have to wonder if Greg Johnson's script was simply lifted from an old Dungeons & Dragons module.

Even if we pretend the lupine bar-brawler Fenris (Brian Drummond) was just a character named after Fenris Wulf, rather than a lame and pointless re-invention of the comic book/mythological beast, and overlook the fact that the Valkyrie depicted here are simply clones of Wonder Woman's Amazons, Tales Of Asgard  stands as a simple, straight-forward and exciting piece of storytelling, with slick, high-quality cartoon animation.

There's nothing dull or tedious about this adventure, but neither is there anything outstandingly memorable. It's harmless entertainment that doesn't tax the brain or challenge your sensibilities, certainly not the best of Marvel's animations - yet still far better than a motion comic - and not its worst.

Fleamarket Friday: For Sale - Billy The Kid!

If you have a spare few hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, next month you could be the owner of the only authenticated picture of one of the Old West's most fascinating characters, William Bonney aka Billy The Kid.

The tintype, which was given by The Kid to one of his friends, has been in a single family for 130 years and is now being offered for public sale for the first time.

This piece of history - "the most recognised photograph of all time" - is to be sold at auction on June 25 at Brian Lebel’s 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction, at the Denver Merchandise Mart in Denver, Colorado.

It is expected to sell for over $300,000.

For more information about the sale and to learn of the photograph's storied history visit The Tainted Archive.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Look What Arrived In My Dead Letter Box Today...

My copy of James Desborough's stunning looking Agents Of S.W.I.N.G. turned up today and I can't wait to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and dig into its tasty FATE-fueled workings.

As I suspected, even from a quick skim through the pregenerated characters there is some serious overlap with Crooked Dice Studio's 7TV (my current favourite set of wargaming rules), which is no bad thing.

Also anyone raised by television in the '60s and '70s will instantly recognise, in these characters, analogues of The Doctor, The Avengers, The Sweeney, The Professionals, The Champions, The Prisoner, Sapphire & Steel, Captain Scarlet, Jason King etc which, again, makes it my sort of game as TV taught me more about the world I wanted to live in growing up than any of my long-suffering school teachers.

I already love the setting, now I just need to adjust my gaming-head to get into the FATE-zone!

At this juncture I must sing the praises of POD service Lulu.

I ordered Agents Of S.W.I.N.G. on Thursday - when James announced its availability - and it was dispatched on Monday... and Lulu parcels always turn up the next day.

Unfortunately I missed the post man on Tuesday, by five minutes according to the card that was left for me (ironically I was at the post office mailing out parcels of items I'd sold on eBay - that had actually financed my purchase of Agents of S.W.I.N.G.), which necessitated a call to the Royal Mail's new automated 'postal redelivery' hotline which then takes an additional two days to get your parcel back to you after asking a barrage of stupid questions using that annoying voice recognition software in partnership with "Press One For...".

Gone are the days, sadly, when I could just ring the sorting office, speak to a pleasant human being and the parcel would turn up the next day!

Tinged With Sadness...

I shall be watching tonight's episode of V with a small tear in the corner of my eye, knowing that Anna's invasion plans have been thwarted not by the Fifth Column but by suits wanting to free up more time in their schedules for crappy reality TV shows and martials arts tournaments...

And just as V was starting to get really good!

Lost On The Fringes Of Alcatraz...

Alcatraz - the latest headfrak series from JJ Abrams, coming to Fox next year.

Obviously there's a touch of Lost there and a dash of The 4400, mixed up with some police procedural - possibly Fringe-y - stuff. But will it be any good?

At least JJ is sticking with what he knows and not trying to re-invent Sex And The City!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)...

Maybe it's the fact that the world is going to end on Saturday or maybe my medications aren't working as well as they have been, but I'm rather off my game at the moment - hence the paucity of posts this week.

Not much else to say really, just felt I should acknowledge that I haven't been blogging as much as usual.

Hopefully (if we're still here, of course), normal service will resume next week.

The Adventures of Tintin - First Trailer...

I'm not a big fan of motion-capture nor 3D, but my love of Tintin outweighs either of those considerations and so I'm really jazzed about the prospect of seeing The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn come to life.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Is This The New Buffy (Probably Not)?

Is new fairytale/cop show Grimm - executive produced and written by David Greenwalt of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel fame - going to be the next big break-out hit?

And how come this four-minute trailer gives us the entire plot (including resolution, apparently) of the first episode?

It's obviously also treading in very similar territory to Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales comics, so I'm guessing the combination of that and the show's Buffy genes means I'm probably going to like it...

Al's New Gaming Webcomic...

Friend of HeroPress and prolific author Al Bruno III has started  a new webcomic about gamers and gaming culture, with Francis Hogan of Swing Shift Studios.

The first episode of Min/Max is also an entry for the Steve Jackson Games Munchkin webcomic contest.

Max Neptune & The Menacing Squid - Chapter 5...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Knight City's Newest Superhero...

Proud god-father and Alec The Super-baby
Alec, my godson, had his first swimming lesson today - at Tonbridge swimming pool - and so I met up with him and Clare afterward for a spot of lunch and to discuss her character for a play-by-email spin-off from the main Knight City Villains & Vigilantes campaign.

We'd rolled the character up the other week when Rachel and I popped round, then after we'd all talked out a basic origin idea I left it to Nick and Clare to hammer out the colourful fluff, and I'll add the the crunchy statistical maths bits when they  are done.

Obviously, as a new mum, Clare's priority is Alec, but she's already got a solid handle on the character. It is going by the name of The Gamekeeper and is a psychic investigator from a heavily Cthulhian-influenced background.

She's not really a brawler like the rest of The Agents Of COMPASS, which means she'll be better suited to more stealthy, mystery-centric adventures.

This should make for an interesting contrast to the main, tabletop adventures that, due to time restrictions, are ultimately centred around giant, superpowered slugfests.

Ty Templeton's Everything You Need To Know About Thor...

Click pic to embiggen

From Ty Templeton's Art Land.

Musical Monday: Critical Hit On My Heart

Marshall Gray - Critical Hit On My Heart, another Dungeons & Dragons-themed love song. Who'd have thought there were so many?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Villains & Vigilantes Eye-Candy...

Indestructibles by G. Scott James
As we patiently wait the arrival of the official Villains & Vigilantes card game, publishers Superhuman Games has been teasing us with some wonderful examples of artwork from various of their artists.

Most recently was Gregory Scott James, a self-taught artist (and a Villains & Vigilantes player) who has been working for various small press titles,  and before that another self-taught star-in-the-making Dexter Saulisbury.

Something Up My Sleeve by Dexter Saulisbury
Now if this doesn't get you excited about the game, I don't know what will...

The "Buy A Spellfury DVD" Song...

Travis Gordon, writer/director/prop-maker of Spellfury, sings the charms of investing $20 in the newly available DVD of season one of this unique Dungeons & Dragons-inspired series.

Conan Month: Sex And Violence...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife

Neil Gaiman is a geek god, he wrote the incredible Sandman comic and countless highly-acclaimed, best-selling novels as well as having a race named after him in Babylon 5 (the Gaim) and several of his tales turned into popular movies... so no pressure then!

Then again my experience with "celebrity" (or "stunt") writers and Doctor Who hasn't been too great so far - I've made my dislike of Richard Curtis' Vincent And The Doctor and Michael Moorcock's The Coming Of The Terraphiles abundantly clear on this blog.

And after last week's filler episode and the similarity in title of this episode to the annoyingly contrived Doctor's Daughter, I was trying not to get my hopes up too high.

But, of course, my worries were unfounded - The Doctor's Wife bordered on genius as we rightly hoped.

The Doctor (along with Amy and Rory) is lured outside the universe by a Time Lord message cube (last seen in the great Second Doctor story The War Games) sent by fellow Time Lord, The Corsair (who may - or may not, depending on your interpretation of The Doctor's sense of humour - have spent a couple of his regenerations as a woman).

Arriving on a junkyard planet in a bubble universe, The Doctor is led to believe there might be more Time Lords about, little realising that the TARDIS's central matrix has been siphoned out and transferred into a human host, Idris (Suranne Jones).

The planet is actually a sentient being, House (voiced by Michael Sheen), that has been pulling this stunt for sometime (for its own wicked ends), but once The Doctor tells it his is the last TARDIS in existence, House decides to steal the TARDIS instead. Unfortunately The Doctor had locked Amy and Rory inside for their own well-being!

The TARDIS disappears, leaving The Doctor alone on the junkyard world with Idris, whose body is burning up from the energy inside it.

And Amy and Rory trapped inside the TARDIS which is under the control of a rather sociopathic, disembodied entity.

It has been said that this is the perfect episode to hook non-Whovians into the show, as it is supposedly a standalone story (barring a few discrete nods to the season's through-story), but I'd have to disagree.

I found it an incredible love letter to the show's forty-plus year history, full of references to canon and the intricate mythology of The Doctor, Time Lords and the TARDIS. It was gorgeous viewing as plot twists led to revelations that would induce broad grins on the faces of the most hardened Doctor Who fans.

The Doctor's Wife was in part hilarious, beautiful, witty, clever, action-packed, charming, touching and ultimately rather sad and poignant - the recipe for a perfect Doctor Who tale.

It also gave us a view of parts of the inside of the TARDIS that haven't been explored in this new incarnation of Who. Sadly, this was the major missed opportunity of the story - as Amy and Rory only found corridors, that led to more corridors and eventually more corridors.

And even when they finally made it to the auxiliary control room, it was just the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS control room. I have to admit I was hoping for the Fourth Doctor's wood paneled, Victorian secondary control room or even the steampunky grandeur of the control room seen in the Doctor Who TV movie.

But this disappointment aside, it was a cracking episode, where everything wrapped itself up in a clever little bow, everyone had a decent part to play in the story (which makes a change) and the dialogue was perfect.

Rather than being an episode to lure new fans to the show, this was the one that told crusty, old Whovians - who may not be too enamoured with the changes showrunner Steven Moffat has been making to the show - that the show is in safe hands.

Well, safe hands if Neil Gaiman could be retained as a full-time writer on Doctor Who, anyway!

Next Week:

Doctor Who (2022) + Wakanda Forever (2022) + Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves (2023)


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