Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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

Friday, 30 November 2012

Top Of The Pile: Amazing Spider-Man #698

There has been a lot of controversy - and childish bile directed at writer Dan Slott - concerning this week's The Amazing Spider-Man #698.

Yet I managed to dodge the spoilers flying around the interweb and, after the crushing disappointment of the film of the same name, I was actually quite nervous about cracking open the issue - in case "the big surprise" sucked as much as the movie. I'm not sure my Spider-sense could have handled a double blow of that magnitude this week.

However, I needn't have worried. Stewart over at The Paradox Comic Group (The PCG) has written a spot-on, spoiler-free review of the issue which pretty much sums up my own feelings about the title.

The key phrase to take away from Stewart's review is: "Dan Slott has delivered a Spider-Man story for the ages, something that long term fans, occasional readers, perhaps just watchers of the previous live action films or maybe even those with only the loosest of grasps of who Peter Parker is should really read if they get opportunity."

Issue 698 is a magnificently crafted piece of storytelling, which will catch you off-guard with its mindblowing revelation which will then necessitate another reading of the issue to see it with from a very different perspective.

I thought I'd second-guessed the twist, but I was miles off target with Slott's bombshell being one of those spectacular leftfield surprises that can only work in the wonderful world comic books.

On The PCG, Stewart adds: "Dan Slott has shown time and time again that he is THE Spider-Man writer for the moment..." and I couldn't agree more.

Spidey has long been my favourite individual hero, but I haven't been as loyal to him as I have my beloved Fantastic Four. It was Slott's writing that drew me back in to Peter Parker's web and I can't see myself dropping the title any time soon - certainly not as long as Slott sticks around.

If my passion for comics or superheroes had been flagging - which it most certainly wasn't - this single issue would have been the catalyst that relit any fading embers. As it is I am more convinced than ever that, in the hands of talented writers and artists, comic book story telling really is the most versatile and surprisingly medium.

Fleamarket Friday: When Buffy Rode Into Deadwood...

Pitched as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Deadwood, the new comic book, Pariah Missouri, immediately has two massive ticks in its favour by citing a pair of my all-time favourite TV shows as its major influences.

Created by indie fim-maker and stand-up comedian Andres Salazar, Pariah Missouri is a western (set in 1857, right before the Civil War) with a supernatural twist. Art is provided by Jose Pescador.

Pariah, Missouri is a riverboat boom-town and a haven for the unscrupulous. The comic focuses on charismatic Pinkerton agent Hy Buchanan, who works undercover as a foppish cheat, as he puts together his rag-tag team of investigators to ferret out evil, both man-made and supernatural.

His first challenge is the arrival of a duo of thespians, whose intentions are not to entertain.

Andres has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the first two chapters/issues of the comic, which will be released as a single, double-sized (about 50-pages) comic.

On the project's Kickstarter page he explains: "Currently issue one is completed and we are in the middle of finishing issue two, which is on schedule for the end of December. After this campaign, the team is scheduled to complete issues three and four by spring of 2013 and begin additional story lines in Pariah. This is more than one story, this is the beginning of a rich world that is being created, and you get to be a part of it!"

The comic book setting was originally conceived as a television show and Andres goes on to explain that: "We have a number of stories to tell, and this first one will be four 24-page issues. We were moving away from the issues format, but I felt it helpful to use each issue as an act-break like they do in television. The goal of course will be to have a collection of the entire four-part story by the summer of 2013. This Kickstarter focuses on issues one and two."

Having worked for Howard Chaykin as an assistant, Andres learned much of the business from his mentor.

He also wrote and directed SAG short film After Cheri and says: "I found that I think in graphic terms, so I decided to work out the Pariah, MO story as a graphic novel. It’s much cheaper, of course, to generate a comic and this is a good way to build a fan-base. 

"We are very excited about our Kickstarter for Pariah, Missouri and it will be an exciting story for the next 30 days to see how we progress through the campaign. I will be posting videos and updates often so backers really get a sense of the “behind the scenes” of what it takes to make a comic book.

To find out more about the campaign, which runs until December 29, and the rewards on offer for backing it, visit the Pariah, Missouri Kickstarter page.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - TV Spot 8

Merlin: The Hollow Queen

On the eve of the arrival of a powerful potential ally for Arthur at Camelot, a young druid boy - Daegal (Alfie Stewart) - breaks into the castle seeking to take Merlin to his encampment where his young sister is dying of the sweating sickness.

Little does Merlin realise he is walking into a deadly trap.

Meanwhile Gwen - at the behest of Morgana - convinces the new arrival at Camelot, the evil and sadistic ruler known as The Sarrum (John Shrapnel), to have Arthur assassinated so she can seize the throne.

He, in turn, believes this will be an opportunity to steal the throne for himself "from a servant girl, playing at being Queen".

Sadly, The Hollow Queen is a very flawed episode at the most basic levels of storytelling.

First, we have Merlin - who has been Arthur's servant now for about seven years, declaring that he won't be missed from court because Arthur will be busy with the arrival of The Sarrum and his retinue. Come on, really? That's exactly the time when Arthur will need his personal servant the most - as the episode goes on to show. Merlin isn't stupid. While it's understandable that he is swayed by Daegal's tale, it's totally ridiculous for Merlin to say his absence won't be noted at such a crucial moment in court life.

Then, we have The Sarrum and his men - all deadly killers in a very Saracen-influenced style (from their helms and headgear to their scimitars). We are told again and again what a strong and dangerous ruler The Sarrum is - and we discover that it was he who held Morgana and her young dragon prisoner for two years.

Yet when the assassination attempt on Arthur is interrupted and [SPOILER ALERT] The Sarrum takes the crossbow bolt in the chest instead what do his troops do? Absolutely nothing. They just stand around. Is it ever mentioned again? No. We are led to believe they just shrug their shoulders and shuffle off home, king-less, with nary a bad word to say about Arthur and the splendid hospitality of Camelot!

The central sub-plot of Gwen being in league with Morgana still isn't working for me and this episode did nothing to change my opinion of this serious misstep in the show's direction. It's all still far too reminiscent of Morgana's time in the castle when she was secretly working with her half-sister, Morgause, against Uther.

What a shame that now we know the show is ending in just five weeks' time it hits this rough patch.

Next Time:

Breaking News: Kaiju Attack!

Thanks to Monster Island News for highlighting this hugely promising teaser trailer for next year's giant robots versus giant monsters flick, Pacific Rim, from Guillermo del Toro.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Words cannot express how far from "amazing" The Amazing Spider-Man is.

To be honest I started to scribble a review, but it just felt like I was wasting  my time.

What hope is there for a film that rewrites the greatest comic book aphorism of all time - "with great power comes great responsibility" - as some unforgettable ramble about "moral obligations"?

There is nothing about this film to recommend it to Spider-Man fans or anyone who enjoys a coherent story in their movies.

From retelling - and then screwing up - Spider-Man's origin story to a cast that, on paper, should have been excellent but simply don't sell it, this is a flat, dull and uninspiring film.

It feels like it was written by committee, with sub-plots being set up and then left unresolved and it isn't afraid  to dive head first into the cheese department - with the risible moment when all the cranes are line up along the street to allow Spider-Man easy access to Oscorp or when the Lizard finds one of Pete's camera's with a large "Property Of Peter Parker" sticker on the back!

It's never even explained why Peter was rigging up the cameras in the sewers anyway - he never went to retrieve them or do anything with the photographs. Sorry, I could feel a rant building there...

Let's not even discuss the "inspiration" for Peter donning a mask... he falls through a roof into an abandoned wrestling arena and sees a luchador poster on the wall!

Things are set up as being of great import and then forgotten - the fate of Peter's parents, Uncle Ben's killer etc

The Amazing Spider-Man is a hideous example of lazy film-making. Trying to reboot (unnecessarily) an established franchise and changing plot points from the Sam Raimi movies (and the comics) just for the sake of it and without thinking through the consequences.

It's so bad it's almost a piss-take. I can't believe that anyone involved in this could have sat through the finished product and been proud of what they  accomplished.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Look! Rain, Dear!

This morning I threw open the curtains to reveal the miserable, drizzly weather outside and declared to Rachel: "Look! Rain, dear"... thus setting the tone for the rest of the day.

Our day had been all planned out for weeks, as Rachel had a day off work, and we were going to the Reindeer Centre in Bethesden - about an hour away.

It's a working farm where they raise reindeer for rental to stores and organisations who are putting on authentic Santa Claus displays at this time of the year.

The majority of the animals are kept cosy in one massive barn, out of the rain and wind, and as well as a magnificent herd of reindeer, the farm has meercats, ferrets, rabbits, ducks, chickens, goats, donkeys etc - all of which are very friendly and most can be petted and fed by visitors.

You could buy a handful of carrots for a charitable donation and the farmer directed me to the large carrots (as evidenced in the picture of Rachel above with one of the many reindeer).

Naturally, we did a lot of feeding of the animals... and a lot of picture snapping.

Away from the main barn was Santa's grotto, and while we were too old to get to see the Big Man himself, the grotto was a wonderful mix of animatronics and festive scenes, which brought back memories of visiting Father Christmas as a child.

The rest of our pictures can be found over in my public Facebook album.

Merlin Hangs Up His Wand!

By now you will probably have heard the sad news that Merlin is coming to an end with the conclusion of this current season.

To be fair, it was always originally said to have been a five-season show and it was just in the last year or so - as the show really found it legs - that there was behind-the-scenes talk of possibly extending it to a sixth season... or more.

It's just a pity that the BBC waited until four weeks before the finale to announce that the show was being "axed".

It's also a great shame that this well-written, well-acted show gets cut from Saturday evenings while the BBC is still throwing money at Doctor Who which, on the strength of the most recent episodes, has long out-stayed its welcome.

Perhaps if more effort had been putting into marketing and merchandising Merlin - as has been done with Doctor Who - it could have lived a bit longer... as the only reason I can see for keeping Who on the air is the revenue it brings in to the BBC's coffers through licencing etc. It certainly isn't because it's, you know, "good".

It's Not Just Guys Whacking Each Other With Sticks...

In this raw footage shot for the new documentary Return to Pennsic, Duke Paul of Belatrix discusses SCA combat, its relation to judo, and how he developed it as a martial art.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Just Say Nothing At All...

Wise words from the ever-sage Buddhist Bootcamp - one of the few sane voices on da Interwebz

Musical Monday: Disney Sing-A-Long - A Whole New World...

From the Now That's What I Call Disney album.

Available as a four-CD collection, the 88 tracks on Now That's What I Call Disney span the decades and movies seamlessly, creating a perfect, cherry picked collection that'll bring a glow to many a festive iPod/ iPad or iPhone.

The collection runs the full gamut from from old classics - The Bare Necessities (The Jungle Book), to new classics - You've Got a Friend in Me (Toy Story) to Christmas classics (Frosty the Snowman).

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Future Is Full Of WoW And Wonder...

After my latest meltdown over running a campaign for The Tuesday Knights, the gang have rallied round marvellously and we now have a couple of potential new roleplaying games on the horizon as well as suggestions for alternative avenues of tabletop entertainment.

Clare has put herself forward to run a Space 1889 one-shot, which would scratch a very old itch of mine, while online gaming journalist Meredith plans to welcome us all to her beloved World Of Warcraft - but via the tabletop RPG (sadly I won't be playing a panda as Pandaria has yet to be discovered in the era our game will be set).

This is fantastic as I don't think I've actually played in a fantasy setting since I was a young 20-something.

Both Clare and Meredith are first-time gamesmasters, so this is a big - brave - step for them, but also a major turning point for our group.

Meanwhile Simon, Pete and Kevin have all admitted that they wouldn't be adverse to some boardgames (such as Lord Of The Rings, Formula De etc) and Simon even brought up the prospect of playing the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures game, which - of course - I'd be more than happy to entertain.

Looking into the future, Kevin is planning his retirement for the summer of 2014 at which point he said he'd be willing to GM a Shadowrun campaign - another blast from the past that brought a smile to my face.

It looks as though the Tuesday Knights have many more adventures ahead of them...

That's Just The Way We Roll...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Neil Armstrong's Secret Star Trek Wish...

Astronaut and humanitarian, the late Neil Armstrong, put aside his trepidations and made a rare public appearance in 2004 to honor a fellow engineer, James Doohan, Star Trek's Lt. Montgomery Scott. Rare footage of the event recently discovered by Wende Doohan reveals Armstrong's secret desire to captain a Federation starship.

Armstrong served as keynote speaker during Planet XPO's "Beam Me Up One Last Time, Scotty" convention in 2004. The gala event, attended by Trek luminaries William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei and Majel Barrett Roddenberry, celebrated Doohan's awarding of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

During a banquet in Doohan's honor, Armstrong gave a heartfelt speech that excited, amused and delighted the many fans that had gathered to see the iconic Trek engineer at his last convention appearance. Armstrong compared the advancements of 24th century space travel to his own, confessing: "So, I'm hoping for my next be given a Federation starship. And, when I get that command...I would like to have a crew like Captain James T. Kirk had."

Armstrong, a real engineer, praised Doohan declaring he would want Scotty as his engineer because he knew Scotty would get the job done!

"It was Neil's desire to play an admiral in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, but he was out of the country and couldn't fit it into his busy schedule," said producer Sky Conway.

"On behalf of the cast and crew of the upcoming production, Star Trek: Renegades, we dedicate the film to Neil Armstrong, a true space pioneer and real life hero, whose numerous contributions to humanity extended far beyond that one small step."

Ladies & Gentlemen, I Think We Might Be Back In Business...

Anyone who pays even slight attention to HeroPress will have noticed I've been through one of my semi-regular blog wobbles in recent weeks, meaning a deficit of commentary and a rise in film clips and trailers!

I think we might be heading out the other side now - not that the factors that provoked it have been eliminated (the usual health and wealth issues), but after a particularly positive birthday weekend I'm hoping things are taking an upswing.

Of course, this was also just the right time to launch a second blog - my Star Wars-themed Stay On Target, which is attracting a steady stream of Followers. Currently this is running a mix of updated old HeroPress articles and new material, but eventually I hope it will take on a life of its own.

I've also noticed that my daily hit count is bobbing back up around 1,000 a day and I've realised that my fears, earlier in the year, of plummeting hits were actually probably to do with the design of the 'front page' of HeroPress. Now that I've trimmed it back to a more manageable size, the hits have rocketed back up to the levels I was used to.

The last piece of good news is that, through all this, HeroPress has still managed to secure a couple of new signings for our big adventure.

Please join me in a rousing chorus of Dire Straits' Money For Nothing to welcome:

  • Paulie Rockets
  • Duane Woolley

Friday, 23 November 2012

Merlin: Arrival of the Sarrum...

Fleamarket Friday: A New Marketplace For Comic Book Trading...

Thanks to the one-two punch of DC's highly publicised relaunch of its titles last year and the blockbuster success of Marvel's The Avengers' franchise, comic books are on the ascendant once more.

Capitalising on this, a new website has launched as a marketplace for fans to buy, sell, trade and put up "want ads" for all kinds of comic books.

Started by a group of comic collecting friends, is a cross between eBay and Craigslist - for the comic book world.

As with eBay, anyone can list an item for sale through an auction. Buyers can browse the site and even keep an eye on comics they like through watch lists. Much like other auction sites, the site is user-friendly but this site goes one step further and allows people to trade comics for no fee. In fact, there are no listing fees and only charges a six percent fee when an item sells.

“At we don’t want to nickel and dime our customers,”’s Alexis MacDonald said. “We want our site to be the hub of the comic book community. Whether someone is looking for a new comic or is trying to find a mint condition Action Comics from the 1930s, we want our site to be the first place people look.”

For collectors, the site offers a handy “want ad” section. Collectors can let others know which comics they are looking for and what condition they want it in. Aside from posting a want ad, customers can swap comics as well - at no cost. was specifically built with comic book enthusiasts in mind. It’s a place where people can buy, sell and trade their favorites with other people who share similar interests.”

However, to really take-off, the site needs users - as it's only as good as the people who use it! So, why not give it a try? The chances are if you're reading HeroPress you have, at least, a passing interest in comics, so where's the harm in giving a try?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

[GIVEAWAY] Only A Week To Go...

UK readers of HeroPress - you only have a week to put your names into the hat and be in with a chance of winning a Blu-Ray box set of Friends - the complete series, released for the first time on Blu-Ray

To enter visit my earlier post, take the light-hearted quiz and type in your result in the comments section.

It couldn't be simpler - and you're in with a shot at a box set worth over £100.

Even if you don't want them, think what a great Christmas present they'd make!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Why I'm Such A Rubbish Gamesmaster...

This is no self-pitying tract, but the result of some serious self-analysis. I've realised I'm such a poor gamesmaster - in the sense that I can't keep a campaign going - because my first love is "playing" roleplaying games, not running them.

When I'm designing scenarios or dungeons it's always from the perspective of creating scenes I'd like to participate in - rather than "neutral scenes" that the players' actions can bring to life.

Part of the problem is certainly due my inability, following my stroke, to concentrate for very long on one thing. I'm very easily distracted. But that's only part of it.

Thinking back to the heyday of our gaming gaggle, the gamesmasters were (nearly) always Steve and Nick, with Pete and I as the regular players. These days Steve has moved away, and is kept busy by his job, and Nick has grown out of RPGs and fills his out-of-office hours with raising my godson, Alec.

All my fondest gaming memories from days of yore involve my characters in games run by other people. I have no recollection (bar one awful Traveller pick-up I winged when Nick couldn't make it to the school's games club one evening) of me actually running anything.

Now, with the advent of the Tuesday Knights, it's been up to Pete and I to run things and while Pete has done a sterling job of sticking to his Top Secret SI campaign, I've fannied about, chopping and changing my campaign ideas - as discussed back in August - culminating in our current fantasy game which I think has failed its saving throw during character creation (another Traveller throwback for the old timers, there).

We had a loose setting, everyone had rolled up characters, but I found my burning bright enthusiasm had gone completely. I had been creating a campaign that I wanted to play in, but not run. I wanted to be the one scouting ahead in the cold, claustrophobic caves, trying to avoid prowling monsters... not the one playing the monsters.

Because the games are not shaping up how I'd like to play them - in very nebulous terms - my interest wanders, as it is wont to do these days.

But, of course, when it comes to gaming - and me GMing - my gnat-like attention span wastes the times and brainpower of my players, who are - understandably -becoming increasing jaded about creating detailed characters for any campaign I come up with because they know it will probably come to nought.

I want to keep the Tuesday Knights going, as we've assembled an awesome band of eager gamers, several of whom I would never have otherwise met, but somehow I need to overcome my personal hang-ups with running games.

If only I'd kept that first game going back in 2008, how different things would be. But I had to dick around with it and instead of creating a firm foundation on which to build a long-running campaign, I created a bed of broken rocks that have served only as the unstable grounding for several failed games.

I love roleplaying - and reckon I could run a half-decent game if I found a system better suited to my style of gamesmastering - but I want to play. I want to have wild, fantastical adventures a million miles from the mundanity of real life, I want to explore dungeons by torchlight, stake vampires in seedy nightclubs, travel to the stars, struggle against insanity in the face of things man was not meant to know...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Merlin: A Lesson In Vengeance

On their wedding anniversary, Arthur and Gwen ride out of Camelot - accompanied by Merlin - for a picnic, only to be ambushed by bandits, with Arthur being thrown from his horse.

Evidence implicates Arthur's groom, Tyr Seward (John Bradley), but he pleads his innocence in the face of a death sentence for treason.

Tyr confides in Merlin that he knows who actually tampered with Arthur's saddle, but he is too afraid to speak their name. The next morning he is found dead in the cells.

The murderer was, of course, Gwen, who is now working for Morgana. Her next plan is to poison Arthur and put the blame on Merlin.

I have to say I'm not feeling particularly engaged with this "traitorous Gwen" turn-of-events. It certainly didn't help that A Lesson In Vengeance started with an ambush - just like The Dark Tower - but the whole sub-plot of a viper in the bosom of Camelot just has too many similarities to when Morgana was still in the castle, under the rule of Uther.

And while it was great to see Game Of Thrones' John Bradley here, there's no avoiding the obvious fact that Tyr Seward and Samwell Tarly are almost interchangeable as characters, which pretty much sums up the problem with the whole episode: a strong sense of déjà vu!

Even the presence of the herbalist Sindri (Tony Guilfoyle), with his nice neat woodland cottage/supermarket full of racks of potions and tinctures, felt just a bit pat. There was no sense that he had "always been there", but rather that this potions outlet had appeared simply for the sake of this story.

This season of Merlin started off so fantastically that it's a pity the scripts have fallen back into retreading old ground. While Arthur and Gwen have had three years of peaceful reign - in the gap between Season Four and Season Five - it would have been nice for us to have enjoyed a whole season of Gwen as queen before getting her "turned" by Morgana.

It's odd that this episode was penned by Jake Michie, one of the show's co-creators, and author of a dozen episodes over the Merlin's five years - but I suppose everybody has their off-days.

Next Time:

Travis Tells You Why He Makes Spellfury...

Don't forget to pledge your (financial) support to the show via its Indiegogo campaign to produce the remaining episodes of Season Two.

There's less than three weeks to go and Travis is hoping to raise $24,000.

Merlin: The Dark Tower

I have long felt that Merlin makes for great Dungeons and Dragons-y inspiration, but it has never been so 'on the nose' as in The Dark Tower.

Morgana kidnaps Gwen and holds her hostage in the dread Dark Tower and Arthur, Merlin and their usual coterie of close knights ride to the rescue.

Even getting to The Dark Tower is a struggle for our heroes as it lays beyond the Impenetrable Forest - where Merlin has an encounter with the fairy queen Mab (Kelly Wenham) who warns him that one of their party will not return to Camelot.

Unfortunately the build-up to the knights' arrival at The Dark Tower takes so long - as brilliant and engaging as it is - that their time actually within in the spire seems rather rushed and they only face a couple of obstacles (the pressure pad trap from Raiders Of The Lost Ark and a 'dancing sword') before reaching Gwen.

While all this has been going on, the young queen has been tormented by the constant drip-drip-drip of black ooze from mandrake roots, ghostly screams and cruel illusions as Morgana tries to break her spirit and drive Gwen as insane as she has clearly become.

After the hurried conclusion of the main plot though we get the denouement which shows the sub-plot of Morgana's mental torture of Gwen is far from over.

I can't help but wonder if this is perhaps Merlin's replacement for the traditional love triangle which spells the end of Camelot in Arthurian mythology, and instead of Gwen betraying Arthur with Lancelot she sells him out to Morgana, instead?

As the show has progressed over the years, sorcery has become more and more prominent and The Dark Tower epitomises this as pretty much everything that anyone interacts with throughout the story is magical to some degree, from Morgana's initial ambush, through the mystical forest to the mental torments of the tower itself.

Hopefully, this is laying the groundwork for Merlin to finally be able to "come out of the magical closet" and offer his sorceress skills to Arthur publicly.

Next Time:

Minimalist Teaser For Game Of Thrones...

Complementing its minimalist poster, HBO has released this stripped down teaser for the third season of Game Of Thrones.

George On "Popping The Question" To Kathy...

George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy discuss how they met, passing the Lucasfilm baton, and more.

Don't forget: for more Star Wars fan bits visit my new blog Stay On Target

Sunday, 18 November 2012

I Suppose I Shouldn't Be Surprised...

... but this new Sinbad movie looks crap... with a capital C! I don't mind the wonky stop-motion claymation, that's kinda endearing in its way, but its the excessive use of greenscreen in lieu of stage sets I object to.

It just makes the film look nasty. I can't imagine how drunk they must have got Patrick Stewart to convince him to lend his honeyed tones for the voiceover. Presumably he hadn't seen the finished product...

Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage is supposedly "inspired by the epic Stop Animation films of yesteryear"... so why film large chunks in front of 2D greenscreen, then?

Even from the trailer you can see they have the use of some suitably exotic exterior locations - which only makes the contrast with the risible greenscreening more stark.

When I first saw the original trailer (over a year ago) for this I was quietly optimistic that we might get a decent B-movie out of Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage, but this latest trailer just makes me throw up in my mouth a bit. What a shame!

Lock S-Foils In Attack Position!

I've launched a new sister blog to HeroPress - Stay On Target! which will be concentrating on Star Wars.

I know my HeroPress postings have been rather patchy of late, but I have high hopes for Stay On Target! which will be taking a similar approach to the Star Wars Universe as HeroPress has to geek fandom in general over the last five or so years.

Please pop over there, have a poke around, drop some comments, maybe even sign on as a Padawan...


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Joy Of Geek...

Birthday Giveaway: Friends - The Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set [UK ONLY]...

The Blu-Ray box set of The Complete Series of Friends was released this week and HeroPress has been offered the chance to give away one set (worth $279/£119.99!) to a lucky reader.

So to celebrate my birthday today - and, of course, the fast-approaching end of the world - how better to spend your time than in the company of Friends?

To be in with a chance - as long as you are in the UK - all you need do is take the "which Friend are you most like?" quiz below and then post your answer in the comments.

The winner will then be randomly chosen at noon on Thursday, November 29. I will contact you for your address, which will then be passed on to the competition organisers - who will mail you your fantastic prize. It will be sent via FedEx or UPS, so no PO Boxes, please (and make sure our contact details are easily accessible via your profile so I can tell you you've won!).

Please remember this giveaway is for UK residents only and entries - via the comments section below - must be in by noon on Thursday, November 29!

Darth Vader In Love...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Barney's Getting Ready For Winter...

Although tucked away behind Shedward, I still worry about Barney being subjected to our usual, cold winter winds and so Rachel's dad today constructed a windbreak (pictured below) to fit on the front of the hutch.

This should keep warm air inside for Barney and also ward off the wind, the wood at the bottom of the plastic sheeting acting as a weight to prevent it being simply blown away.

I've also fitted Barney's water dispenser with a "warmer" to, hopefully, prevent his essential daily water supply from freezing.

The sheeting easily lifts off and can be rolled up during the day and then slotted back into place in the evening.

And here's a short video of Barney being cute:

Game Of Dates...

The highly anticipated third season Game Of Thrones debuts in the States on Sunday, March 31 next year (according to this minimalist teaser poster released by HBO).

Hopefully that means it'll hit the UK on Monday, April 1, at the latest (fingers crossed).

Kudos to Seriable for the tip-off.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Musical Monday: The Raven, by The Stranglers

Viking-themed fanvid for a classic track from one of the all-time great bands, The Stranglers, coupled with - below - Toiler On The Sea, from the Black And White album.

Judge For Yourself...

It says a lot about the current state of filmmaking when a low-budget fan film more accurately reflects its source material than a big budget Hollywood movie.

Judge Minty (which I was reminded of today by Steve Blease of Bleaseworld) is the fan film in question, and is getting a limited, not-for-profit, festival release this month.

Check out this cool, work-in-progress trailer and it's spot-on representation of Mega-City One then remind yourself of the efforts by the team behind the blink-and-you'll-miss-it cinematic release, Dredd, from earlier this year.

Judge Minty:


I know this is a dead horse I've flogged before, but the recent bland trailer for World War Z has really got my hackles up about filmmakers not respecting their source material.

And, yes, I know this is not a nothing new (Robert E Howard fans have long had to endure Hollywood's desire to "improve" Howard's works), but, really, isn't it about time that someone started to take notice?

Sometimes You Just Know...

You pick up a book and the first review quote you read says:

"John Dies At The End is like an H.P. Lovecraft tale if Lovecraft were into poop and fart jokes" (Fangoria)

... and you know you've found the right book for you!

Brothers Barbarian - My Sword

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Birthday Is Coming!

The Birthday Tree
Rachel and I went over to her parents' today for what turned out to be a "surprise early birthday party" for me, as they won't be able to actually see me on my birthday (this Friday).

As always Rachel's mum had gone to town on the decorations, with banners, candles and fairy lights, as well as the balloon-festooned "birthday tree" (pictured above).

Present-wise, as well as my traditional Dilbert Desk Calendar, there was a bit of a theme as you can see from the picture below:

A Song Of Ice And Fire 2013 art calendar (for the gamesroom) and the magnificent new box set of maps of "The Lands Of Ice And Fire" - which led to a very bizarre conversation with my in-laws who appeared to have no grasp of "fantasy fiction" or that maps of "made-up places" even existed!

I then went for a bit of a lie-down for an hour or so, and a chance to catch-up on the recent Star Wars Action News podcasts, then the afternoon rounded off with a delicious Batman birthday cake.

My family may not understand my fandom, but that doesn't stop them catering to it very well... and it's still several days until my actual birthday.

The only slight dampener on the weekend is that having thought all our heating woes were finally at an end, the timer for the heating and hot water packed up - so we had to revert to the immersion heater again for hot water and the bar heaters for warmth, until we can get a replacement timer (our friendly electrician is sourcing that as we speak).

But then the icing on the cake was finding out this morning - after working fine for a couple of days - that the immersion heater (the NEW immersion heater, I must stress, that was part of our major plumbing works) has decided to stop heating the water. Rachel discovered this when she jumped in the shower this morning... and promptly jumped back out again.

So tomorrow, instead of meeting up with my godson Alec and his mum, Clare, as I'd originally planned, I'm once again having to wait in for repair works to be carried out.

Who Was That Masked Man?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Another Zom-Rom-Com...

Despite my initial resistance to this as it's yet another zombie comedy (let them just eat people for Pete's sake), Warm Bodies actually looks as though it might be quirky enough to stand on its own merits.


Holdout - a 17-minute zombie-comedy-action-drama movie, made with a budget of around $100, between school and during holidays.

Directed by Calvin Sang and starring Reuben Bray, Jeremy Tant and Philippa Stephens.

Friday, 9 November 2012

World War Z - First Trailer...

I want to be optimistic about World War Z, but it would appear that the filmmakers have taken an atypical zombie story and stripped it down to a vanilla, run-of-the-mill zombie movie that bears little resemblance to the source material.

On the other hand, I like the clambering zombies - how they form a "human" pyramid with their bodies...

Starting The New Star Wars Movies...

Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas discuss the next steps in making new Star Wars movies, including selecting a director and what Lucas' role will be.

Snake Attack!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Still Under Willow's Spell...

So, I struggled through the Season Eight series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer comics - giving up a couple of times then returning to see if it had improved (it never did) and have therefore totally avoided the Season Nine run from Dark Horse (fearing another out-of-control train wreck).

However, this week, Willow- Wonderland hits shelves. A five-issue mini-series, this sees Willow trying to bring magic back to the Buffyverse (yes, there is a definite metaphor there).

I mean, come on, it's Willow - the best character from the show - doing funky magicky things, what can go wrong?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Tickets Now On Sale Spots...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Going Out With A Bang!

It's a dumb tragedy that The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is getting axed after only two seasons, but it looks as though it's going out in style.

The Walking Lead...

If you're a miniatures gamer interested in zombie-themed games then you're probably well aware of the brilliant selection of flesh-eaters available from Studio Miniatures, but I don't think enough has been said about their increasing range of equally-excellent "survivor" figures.

The latest addition to the range, above, even comes with a pair of neutered zombie pets. And she's not the only figure available from Studio Miniatures that's reminiscent of characters from a certain genre-leading TV show and comic book.

Check out the survivors below.

And take a look at Studio Miniatures other survivors, many of whom have cinematic analogues, that would look great on your games table, whether for wargames or RPGs.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Going Boldly In High Definition...

The Stan Lee Story...

As of this weekend you can own the DVD of the eagerly awaited documentary about one of the most pivotal figures in geek culture: With Great Power - The Stan Lee Story...

Here, to whet your appetite, are three more extended interview from the film:

Hopefully this DVD will soon be available in the UK as well!

Knock, Knock, Disney Legal Department...

John Kovalic presents a Dork Tower take on the week's big geek news.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Merlin: The Disir

Although dialogue-heavy (by Merlin's standards) The Disir turned out to be an enthralling and pivotal episode, compounding the dark and mature tone the show has taken as it has grown over the years.

The story primarily focussed on young Mordred's first official patrol with the knights of Camelot, hunting down a murderous sorcerer called Osgar (Andrew Tiernan).

Only when the knights find him he doesn't attack Arthur  but instead presents him with a rune-marked token of The Disir, the supreme seers of The Old Religion.

This disc is their judgement on Arthur, which at first he dismisses as superstitious nonsense, until Merlin and Gaius convince him to take it seriously.

Meanwhile Merlin has been consulting The Great Dragon about his concern that Mordred is fated to be the death of Arthur and The Dragon advises Merlin that he should kill Mordred at the first opportunity!

Arthur takes his trusted knights to pay a visit to this trio of seers, but even then - although Merlin warns them that the place is sacred - Arthur and company behave arrogantly and flaunt their pig-headedness.

The result is a magical scuffle that leaves Mordred mortally wounded - having thrown himself into the path of an attack on Arthur - and once Arthur gets him back to Camelot Gaius admits that the young knight's injuries (being magical in nature) are beyond his abilities to cure. The only hope to save Mordred, he explains, is The Disir themselves.

So Arthur and Merlin return to the sacred cave of The Disir, with the king now much more humble, only to be told that Arthur must embrace the Old Religion - and welcome magic back into Camelot - if he wants his knight healed.

It's here that Merlin makes a surprising proclamation that will have massive repercussions for his own situation, especially given the surprise twist in the tale that follows.

The Disir wasn't exactly an all-action episode, but more about world-building and establishing a mood and layered backstory for the show.

As with all the episodes so far this season lots of places got name-checked, many that had been mentioned in passing in earlier seasons, which all goes to help build up the Truth of the story that it takes place in a 'real' mythical land.

The show is doing a good job of taking what has gone before and building on it.

Next Time:

Mordred's First Quest As A Knight...

Episode VII – Choosing the Director...

Ladies & Gentlemen, May The Mouse Be With You!

What a week! My head is still spinning from the news of new Star Wars movies on the horizon. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am by this.

I know there'll be a vocal minority of naysayers who'll bitch and moan about The Prequels etc, but I say: "Get over it!" I'd rather sit through another Star Wars Trilogy than an avalanche of tired rom-coms or Twilight-wannabes.

And speaking of great things, Tim Brannan's Monstrous Monday blog hop drew plenty of new commentators to HeroPress that day and saw a couple of new sign-ups for our ongoing voyage.

So, please join be in a tuneful rendition of  the ewok ditty Yub Nub to welcome:

Friday, 2 November 2012

Fleamarket Friday: Help Us, Kickstarter, You're Our Only Hope!

Game designer and avid comic fan Ryan Brain contacted me about helping to get his own web comic and graphic novel off the ground and having watched his Kickstarter video I think this is something that might interest HeroPress readers.

This new comic series is a sequel to The Unwritten Rule trilogy of fan films Ryan and his friends made back in 2003. The original idea was to create a feature-length sequel, but over the years this has morphed into a graphic novel and on-going web comic.

I'll let Ryan explain:

You can read more about the background to the Star Wars/modern day mash-up project, Unlikely Jedi: Return Of The French Guy, and the perks for backing it over on Ryan's Kickstarter page.

A sample page from the project:

Fleamarket Friday: Surfing With Sea Munkees...

Sea-Monkeys, X-Ray Specs and a necklace full of soil from Dracula's castle are among the many bizarre items that were sold in comic-book ads of yore.

Garage/surf rock supergroup Darling Pet Munkee aims to continue telling the tales of these lost items in song with their second EP this year: You Better Believe It!

Track listing:
  • Hypno-Coin
  • Scary, Giant Size ALIEN-EYE Creature!
  • Polaris Nuclear Sub
  • Charles Atlas (Hey Skinny...Yer Ribs Are Showing!)
  • 100 pc. Toy Soldier Set
  • GROW MAN GROW! (Ladies Too!)
  • Live Toy Circus (With Performing CHAMELEON)
For the next six months, the band will be releasing one song a month - with accompanying history - examining the bizarre knick-knacks sold via these misleading ads that promised fighting skills, wondrous creatures and grand journeys.

I don't write much about music on HeroPress, as it's not one of my areas of expertise, but to my uneducated ears Darling Pet Munkee are a perfect cocktail of The Very Things, Sonic Youth and Devo, which makes a quality recipe in my book.

The band name is derived from both the sale of living squirrel monkeys via ads ("Darling Pet Monkey") and the combination of Sophia Cacciola (drums, vocals) and Michael J. Epstein (bass, vocals) of The Prisoner-themed act, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, and Catherine Capozzi (guitars) of Axemunkee.

Tracklist for their first EP: Glows in the Dark!:

Fleamarket Friday: Save The Realm!

The cast and crew of my favourite webs series, Spellfury, have launched a fundraiser to finance the production of the remaining episodes of the show's second season.

Spellfury has long been a fixture on HeroPress, helped by its Dungeons & Dragons roots and the boundless enthusiasm of writer/director/editor/special FX wizard Travis Gordon.

So if, like me, you want to see more episodes of this light-hearted fantasy show then pledge your support to the Indiegogo campaign.

The show has been seen over five million times online (YouTube,, and iTunes) and Season One was even shown on a major Canadian TV channel (sadly no money was made from this). It would take a fraction of those viewers, pledging just $10 each, for the money to be raised for season two.


Fleamarket Friday: Come Out Of The Shadows...

Long-term readers of this blog will know I'm a massive fan of the works of Arrowstorm Entertainment (Ozombie, The Crown & The Dragon, Dawn Of Dragonslayer), so it was pretty much a given that I'd jump on-board their latest Kickstarter - a new fantasy movie: The Shadow Cabal.
Keltus, a devoted agent of the ruling Order, is on the trail of the enigmatic Shadow Cabal. When his leads turn cold, he must team up with a tormented elven bounty hunter, Nemyt, and an infamous orc raider, Kullimon, to infiltrate the Shadow and try to thwart their nefarious purpose – to unleash the God of the Undead.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Supernatural: Survival Of The Fittest

All the pieces on the gameboard have been moved into their final positions - let battle commence!

Dick captured Crowley and they agreed a deal whereby the demons get free reign over Canada in Dick's new world and Crowley slips the Winchesters some random demon blood - in lieu of his own - for their superweapon.

But, of course, when Crowley meets up with the Winchester brothers later he tells them all about his deal with Dick - thus leaving the brothers with a right Schrödinger's Cat of a dilemma: they won't actually know if it's the right demon blood they've got until they actually use the weapon on Dick Roman!

There's so much going on in this episode - including a moving farewell to Bobby, the fate of Kevin Tran and Dick's scheme to eliminate all the skinny people in America - that about half-way through I found myself wondering (as I often do in Supernatural finales) how the production team is going squeeze in everything that needs to be said before the closing credits roll.

Of course (again as always happens) I needn't have been concerned, especially with showrunner Sera Gamble on writing detail for Survival Of The Fittest, as this episode hits all the right beats and even manages to deliver a fantastic, leftfield kicker at the end, setting things up nicely for Season Eight.

Personally I couldn't be happier with the way things wrapped up; it certainly wasn't nice and neat with a bow on top and there's plenty of fall-out for the brothers to face in the next season of Supernatural.

If Gamble and co keep this up - and their leads are willing - I could see this show running for years and years as its season arcs are now pretty much self-perpetuating. Every problem solved creates a new problem for the Winchesters and their colleagues to clean up.

When Supernatural has run its course I hope the Winchesters are allowed to go out in a fitting blaze of glory. But until then I'm strapped in for the ride.

Coming In Season Eight:

A spoilerific extended preview of Saw Enough, the Season Eight opener...
(Don't Watch Unless You've Already Seen
Survival Of The Fittest)

Darth Vader Surveys His Latest Conquest...

Supernatural: There Will Be Blood

The finale express is rocketing along at full speed as we hit the penultimate episode of this season. Last week's Reading Is Fundamental segues superbly into There Will Be Blood with the Winchesters having learned how to kill the Leviathans, thanks to Kevin Tran translating The Word Of God for them.

Three key ingredients are the blood of an angel (Cas), the blood of a demon (Crowley) and the blood of an Alpha - only all the Alphas were slain a couple of season's back.

However, Crowley tells the boys that the Vampire Alpha (Rick Worthy) actually escaped the cull and gives them directions to find him - with the stipulation that they won't get any of his demon blood until they secure themselves some Alpha vampire blood.

Meanwhile Dick Roman has been expanding his corporate interests into corn syrup and contaminating America's food supply, rendering anyone who doesn't live on just fresh fruit and vegetables, into a docile "ready meal" for the Leviathans.

He's also captured Kevin Tran and found out about the anti-Leviathan weapon the Winchesters are trying to put together.

If things weren't already complicated enough for our heroes they are also having to contend with the increasingly out-of-control ghost of Bobby Singer - who means well, but is gradually morphing into a vengeful spirit.

Sam and Dean, rather naively, fall into a trap set by the Alpha Vampire, who has previously struck a deal with Dick Roman to share in the bounty of a Leviathan-ruled Earth. Of course, Dick can't be trusted and the chemicals he's using to pacify the humans turns out ton be toxic to vampires and any other creatures that feed on humans (except Leviathans).

The Supernatural team really know how to twist the knife as they continue to raise the stakes in the final episodes of a season, making sure Sam and Dean never have an easy ride and their inevitable victory never actually seems that inevitable.

The only real slip with this episode came after the Winchesters had been captured by the vampires and stripped of their weapons and syringes of contaminated blood. A few scenes later Dean reveals that he has cannily concealed an extra, stonking huge syringe in his sock. I mean, come one, how well did the vampires search them? It wasn't exactly that well hidden. He'd have never got it through airport security!

For me, this is another of those annoying little, verisimilitude-taxing niggles that have crept into some of the episodes this season. I'm hoping these are just minor road bumps and not a sign of slipping standards in what is one of the most consistently superb shows on television.

Every long-running serial drama has its rough patches and Season Seven of Supernatural started off rather shakily but pulled its act back together mid-season.

I'm hoping that these little glitches aren't vestiges of the less-than-stellar writing from the season's start that could continue to rot Season Eight from within. I'd hate to see this show (which I believe now has a ten-year plan, replacing creator Eirc Kripke's original five-year plan) enter a premature death spiral like the recent run of Doctor Who.

Next Time:

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


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